I received an email from a cousin last spring letting me know he had a homework assignment of our grandmother’s that he thought I might find interesting. He confirmed my address and sent it my way.
What about this homework assignment would interest me?
Everything about it!
In 1908-1909, my grandmother completed a botanical study, starting with fungi and mosses and ending with seeds, stems, flowers, roots and more, with write ups of various botanical experiments she did along the way.
As you can see, for her efforts, my grandmother received an A.
As well she should have!
Yes, you all know I looked up Edna McCormick who graded this assignment, which was was 140+ pages. I found Edna F. McCormack in a census from 1910 when she was living in a boarding house in Indianapolis. I also found a report of state employees from around the same time, where she is listed as a botanist. From what I can tell, if I found the right person, she got married in 1911 in Chicago and died in 1976, age 90. She outlived my grandmother by four years.
This is an amazing piece of homework when you consider that it took the entire school year to do, and there was no internet to look up everything. The assignment includes experiments which range from simple to “I didn’t know you could do that back then.” Here’s one example:
And another example of figuring out the food and oil value of various seeds.
My favorite part of this assignment is all of the drawings Grandma did, from the tiniest mosses to leaves, stems, and roots. Of course my favorite drawing is this floral study of Viola palmata cucullata, common blue violet
I should frame that page!
For long-time followers of my blog going back to the “oughts”, this is the same grandmother who left us with several years of daily diaries, which I posted on a separate blog over the course of three years. I’d love to tell you that I had turned those diaries into a book, but I haven’t, yet. That’s a future project.
I will tell you that today, December 18, 2022 is the 130th anniversary of her birth.
And I’m proud to share that she got an A on her botany assignment.