Skip to main content

In the late 1800s the idea of women in economic entomology was pretty much a non-starter. There were, in fact, only a few men in this embryonic field. However one name of a female stood out - that of Mary Davis Treat.  Indeed Mary Treat was a pioneer in every sense of the term.  Having never gone to college, she became an expert on insects, spiders and birds, and wrote well respected scientific papers and popular articles and books on natural history, including a very popular manual for home owners on garden pests.

Born Mary Lua Adelia Davis in September of 1830 in Trumansville, New York, she became fascinated with the natural world.  After her marriage in 1863 to Dr. Joseph Burrell Treat, a medical doctor with diverse interests, she became a serious naturalist. The Treats moved first to Iowa, and then in 1869, to Vineland New Jersey.  Mary separated from her husband in 1874 and wrote books to support herself.  She also wrote scientific journal articles, publishing them in the American Entomologist and Botanist, the American Naturalist, and the Journal of the New York Entomological Society. Her Injurious Insects of Farm and Field (1882) was reprinted five times.  Her articles on insects, spiders and birds in Harper's Monthly were widely read.  In total she published five books and 76 popular and scientific articles during the 36 years of her career.

She started a correspondence with the Harvard botanist Asa Gray and Gray introduced her to Charles Darwin.  She collaborated with Darwin on his book "Insectivorous Plants," which Darwin gratefully acknowledged in the book.  A strong supporter of the Theory of Natural Selection, Mary Treat was a superb observer, as Darwin states.

She traveled to Florida and rediscovered the lost Nymphaea lutea water lily.  In addition she discovered several new species of organisms, including an ant and zephyr lily, both of which are named after her.

She died after a fall at Pembroke, New York (where she had moved to be with her sister) in April of 1923, at the age of 92.

My personal association with Mary Treat began in a very odd way.  While haunting a thrift store for books during the 1960s  I came across 37 bound volumes of Harper's Monthly, dated 1850 to 1882, with the period of the Civil War (including the late 1850s and 1860s until around 1868 or so) missing.  While perusing the volumes I encountered an article by Mary Treat on spiders, which was well illustrated with beautiful woodcuts.  I soon found one or two others of her articles. As they were not priced I asked the thrift store attendant how much they would cost each, hoping to be able to pick up one or two of the more interesting volumes, including those with articles by Mary Treat.  The attendant said that they thought $12 would be a good price.  This was a bit steep for my budget at the time, so I started to put the books back when they added ...."for the lot!"  I had those books for years, but multitudinous moves resulted in my disposing of all of them over the years.  I later acquired her book on injurious insects, which was also fascinating and well illustrated.

Internet References:

Distinguished Women of Past and Present: Mary Davis Treat. http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/...

Mary Lua Adelia Davis Treat http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Literature Reference:

Bonta, Marcia Myers. 1991. Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists, Texas A. & M. University Press.

Past "Women in Science" links:

Ann Haven Morgan:  http://www.dailykos.com/...

Arabella Buckley: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Maria Sibylla Merian: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Elizabeth Gifford Peckham: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Lise Meitner: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Beatrix Potter: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Libbie Hyman: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Originally posted to Desert Scientist on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by Backyard Science, SciTech, J Town, and History for Kossacks.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site