Commander Joseph Seymour
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Black and white image of white Edwardian lady in large hat
Edith Maud Cunnington
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Commander Joseph SeymourBotanist 1865 to 1935
August 28, 2022
Black and white image of white Edwardian lady in large hat
Edith Maud CunningtonBotanist 1865 to 1935
January 3, 2023

Ida Roper – BotanistBotanist 1865 to 1935

Bristol born and bred

Ida Roper was a highly respected Bristol-born botanist, whose interests also embraced archaeology and embroidery.  

She lived in Bristol all her life apart from taking botanical expeditions, mainly in the UK. 

She seems to have been a woman of independent means who could devote time to becoming an expert in her fields. 

She never married and had no children. 

 

First Woman President of Bristol Naturalists' Society 

Admiration for her scientific rigour as a botanist was so great that in 1913 she became the first woman President of Bristol Naturalists’ Society.  

As well as making identifications of thousands of local species, Ida Roper was acknowledged for her “trustworthy and energetic help” by the eminent local botanist JW White in the preface to his 1912 ‘Flora of Bristol’, and was made a Fellow of the Linnaean Society in 1909, only 4 years after women were admitted.  

In 1930 she hosted a Bristol meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  

Ida Roper contributed many papers to the Proceedings of Bristol Naturalists’ Society, and she became more widely known locally when between 1911 and 1923 she maintained a Wardian case (a large glass container) of seasonally-relevant local wildflowers in the entrance of Bristol Museum (then housed in what is currently Brown’s Restaurant on the Triangle). This display is reputed to have provided a popular distraction from war, particularly for wounded soldiers as the museum provided regular tea parties for them. 

Ida Roper’s interest in archaeology led to her being the first woman to be elected to the council of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society; she provided papers for its journal, and wrote a book, ‘Effigies of Gloucestershire’, published in 1931.

The enormous herbarium, which also includes books, photos and articles, was built up between 1893 and 1934, and was bequeathed to the University of Leeds (likely because of lack of space at the University of Bristol).  It is now with Leeds Museums and Galleries, and an exhibition about the collection was held in 2019 at Leeds Discovery Centre.  

The herbarium can be accessed on line. 

Ida was active in the Botanical Exchange Club of the British Isles. Her help in sourcing reliably-identified species was sought by other collectors, and material attributed to her can be found in Oxford, Nottingham, Liverpool, Ulster, the National Museum of Wales, and the British Museum. 

Church-goer as well as scientist

Ida Roper appears to have been involved with what was then St Georges Church on Brandon Hill (now the well-known music venue St Georges).  She made embroidered wall hangings and alter frontals for the church, and also wrote guidebooks and pamphlets.

Death and burial

Ida died on the 8th June 1935 in a nursing home in Bristol.  Such was her importance that there was a short obituary put into Nature about her work. Sadly the family grave at Arnos Vale Cemetery is very dilapidated, not at all in keeping with the respect due to this highly accomplished Bristol woman.

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Ida Roper – Botanist<span class="ag_notability">Business man</span><span class="ag_event_date"><i class="icon-calendar"></i>1829 to 1906</span>
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