Flower Diary

In Which Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door

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Pub Date 14 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 01 Dec 2021

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Molly Peacock uncovers the history of neglected painter Mary Hiester Reid, a trailblazing artist who refused to choose between marriage and a career.

Molly Peacock looks at the balancing act of female creativity and domesticity in the life of Mary Hiester Reid, a painter who produced over three hundred stunning, emotive floral still lifes and landscapes. Born in the U.S. in 1854, trained by libertine Thomas Eakins, Mary trailblazed in a life where she fought for her place as a professional artist without having to live as a tragic heroine.

She married George A. Reid, a prominent Canadian painter, and moved with him to Toronto, though she kept a studio in the Catskill Mountains. But it was the Edwardian age, and while their relationship was more equal than most, it was Mary’s place to manage the domestic scene. So, how do you find the time to paint when you need to get to the market to buy a chicken for dinner? And how do you manage a marriage when your art student becomes your rival?

Molly Peacock uncovers the history of neglected painter Mary Hiester Reid, a trailblazing artist who refused to choose between marriage and a career.

Molly Peacock looks at the balancing act of...

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Featured Reviews

This. Was. FASCINATING! What an amazing trailblazer. I loved reading about Mary Heister Reid defying all the gendered expectations of her time. Smart, creative, strong willed, determined she is an absolute powerhouse of the kind of energy I want to embody in my own life. Her example and passion for life is inspired and inspiring. I thought this was compiled wonderfully and really compelled me to keep reading. I didn’t know anything about Reid’s life and Molly Peacock truly brought it off the page for me. Absolutely wonderful!

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Poet and nonfiction writer Molly Peacock offers a rich and thought-provoking exploration of 19th-century artist Mary Hiester Reid in Flower Diary. As she did in The Paper Garden, her book on the botanical artist Mary Delany, Peacock skillfully melds personal musings on the lives of creative women with her look at a historical life. It's both a wonder and a privilege to be able to spend time in Peacock's imagination as well as Reid's life and times.

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This is a biography of an American painter born in the mid-nineteenth century who did the nearly impossible: Mary Hiester Reid received a classic education in painting. She was taught by Thomas Eakins (ok, but he was a terrific painter) and worked very hard to overcome the prejudice against female artists. She married a Canadian artist, George Reid, and moved to Canada. She was successful in her career, but also had to deal with domestic responsibilities and being the wife of a man who could have been a competitor. This is a delicious book for artists and/or those interested in successful women in another century. The author is a much-recognized poet, and in the last decade she also turned to writing biography. "Flower Diary" is a beautifully written story of an artist's life and times.

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As a lover of art and artists, I really enjoyed reading Flower Diary by Molly Peacock. Flower Diary really explores the life of Mary Heister Reid and portrays her in a way that it both relatable and empowering. I love reading stories like this and not enough are told about women. Men often take centre stage in the art world and from a Canadian and artistic perspective, the story of Mary Heister Reid is extremely important. I really enjoyed how Molly wrote this book, I only wish that I could read it again for the first time.

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Wow! As someone interested in this time era, natural science, and women's history, I am so happy with this book. I never knew about Mary and really enjoyed getting to know her and her works. This book includes many details about the time era, what a woman would be like, her daily habits, packing lists, and thoughts on many subjects. Her marriage was unlike any marriage of the time: a companionship. I liked that she embraced the fact she was a woman but fought for the cause of equal rights. Well done read!

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How have I managed not to discover such a wonderful artist until now? Thank goodness for this fascinating biography of Mary Hiester Reid, which introduced me both to her life and work. I was captivated by both. The book is a work of meticulous research and great insight, and being also a personal memoir by the author, was enhanced by offering yet another layer to an already multi-layered exploration of one woman’s life and art. Beautifully written, in a lyrical yet always accessible way, this is essential reading not only for art enthusiasts but for anyone interested in women’s lives and experiences. Many well-chosen illustrations only add to the reading pleasure.

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