You may rightly ask how she could be “lost” if someone wrote an entire book about her life.
She met most of my criteria for being lost. There is no Wikipedia page about her, though finding one on someone isn’t a complete show stopper for me, and I should note she is mentioned in the Wikipedia page for her third husband.
I have one of her books in my library. In this case it’s Let’s Make a Flower Garden (1912). (Reprints available, but it is much nicer to find a good used copy like I have.)
Other criteria met: she was a woman, she wrote about gardening, she was American (which makes it possible for me to do my research on ancestry.com and newspapers.com)
So she’s in!
Earlier this summer I got an email from Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener magazine asking me if I had heard of Hanna Rion because she had received an offer to get a review copy of her biography, but she wasn’t familiar with her.
My reply back was that yes, I knew of her, I had one of her books, and she was next on my list of lost ladies of garden writing.
I immediately ordered the biography and just this morning finished reading it.
What a fascinating life Hanna lived from her birth in South Carolina in 1874 as the ninth and youngest child of James and Mary Catherine Rion to her death at her home in Bermuda in 1924. Yes, she wrote two gardening books, Let’s Make a Flower Garden (1912) and The Garden in the Wilderness (1909) but she was also a talented musician and composer with several published songs, an artist (her biographer says her paintings are still sought out by collectors), and an advocate for and author of a book about “twilight sleep,” a medical procedure used in the early 20th century to help child-bearing women have a painless labor. Plus she wrote several novels, novelettes, and numerous magazine articles.
If you want to know more, and you do, I suggest you get a copy of her biography and follow her life from South Carolina to Connecticut, New York, Bermuda, England, Maine and finally back to Bermuda where, did I mention, one of her neighbors and friends was Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden?
You’ll come away impressed by all she managed to accomplish in her 50 years of life.
(Yes, I, too, wondered why the author of the biography, a retired pathologist, decided to write about Hanna Rion. I haven’t reached out to ask him, but he also wrote a biography of her father, James Henry Rion: Son of South Carolina (2021). My guess is that in doing the research on James Rion, the author couldn’t resist the fascinating life story of Hanna Rion.)
(And now I’m on the hunt for Ladies’ Southern Florist (1860), written by Hanna’s mother, Mary Catherine Rion. I doubt I find an original copy but there is at least one decent reprint out there. She might well be a future Lost Lady of Garden Writing.)
(Hanna Rion is the author behind the often quoted sentiment, “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”)