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Monday, January 17, 2011

Further Down In The Rabbit Hole

Down, down, down, I ventured into the rabbit hole. One search led to another, as I typed in terms like “Ida D. Bennett” and “Ida Dandridge Bennett”. Along the way, I encountered Annie in Austin, who has joined me in the search down in this rabbit hole to find out more about this garden writer.

There aren’t a lot of references to Bennett on the Internet, but down in that rabbit hole, if you go deep enough, there are still some tidbits to be found. Going off in different directions, Annie and I have managed to piece together quite a bit of information about Ida D. Bennett, the author of several gardening books, including The Flower Garden (1903).

One of the most fascinating references to Ida D. Bennett that I've found so far is in a letter from Katharine S. White to Elizabeth Lawrence, referencing a column Lawrence had written on Bennett.

It took me just a few minutes to pull Through the Garden Gate, a compilation of columns written by Lawrence, off my book shelf, flip to the index, and go right to the column she wrote.

What a coincidence! In July 1959, one of my favorite garden writers, Elizabeth Lawrence, wrote an entire column about Ida D. Bennett. Lawrence, as it turns out, also did not know much about Bennett but did speculate about her personal life in her column. In August 1966, Lawrence also references Bennett in another column about bedding out annuals, along with garden writers E. A. Bowles and William Robinson.

Funny thing about these rabbit holes. There are twists and turns that can take you off in one direction and then another, sometimes leading to a goldmine of information, other times dragging you through a quagmire of questions, but always enticing you deeper into the rabbit hole, until you almost forget what you are there for.

I’m coming out of this rabbit hole for awhile, with a bag of information on Bennett and some questions, too. I’ll combine what I have with whatever Annie in Austin found and also see if commenter “T”, who lives in Bennett's home town of Coldwater, Michigan and belongs to their local garden club, comes up with anything from the local library. Then I’ll write it all up so that if someday someone else picks up one of Bennett’s books and decides to find out more about her, they will find the information we’ve found all in one place.

While that may not give them the same thrill of going down into the rabbit hole, it should save them time, which can be used to go find another rabbit hole that has yet to be explored. What connections will they find there between what they are looking for and what they already have?

One wonders.

18 comments:

Gail said...

How delightful to discover a link between EAL and Ida Bennett. You never know, she may have family members who will be revealed in the search! gail ps I've been down those rabbit holes Carol~They can be a lot of fun!

Layanee said...

You are making good use of the 'down time' of the gardening season. It seems as though you have a bit of a mystery on hand. Have fun skipping down the trail.

Liza said...

Oooh, I love researching people. Not easy, but very rewarding. Good for you!

Commonweeder said...

I have loved reading of your researches into Ida Bennett. It is a treat to find people who are so in tune with one's own thoughts and interests - who lived in such a different time.

Dee Nash said...

Fascinating, I think you have the beginnings of a book there.~~Dee

Donna said...

fascinating and makes me want to read her books....I know that rabbit hole :)

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

You have got me interested as well. I also knew virtually nothing on the author, and have enjoyed your research. Have fun going in and out of the rabbit hole. Good you have a partner in Annie down there too.

Annie in Austin said...

Usually when I go missing on one of these quests it's called "falling over the genealogy cliff", but rabbit hole works pretty well too, Carol! Or maybe Badger Sett, since I am the hunter, not the quarry.

Gail - you guessed one of my prime motives was finding current relatives - so far no luck. Where's that reader from Coldwater?

Annie (sometimes at the Transplantable Rose... sometimes at Divas of the Dirt ... sometimes questing for Carol!)

Cindy, MCOK said...

I wonder how Ida D. Bennett felt about rabbits?

Rose said...

I love a good mystery, and this sounds like such an enjoyable rabbit hole to explore, Carol. How nice to find that Elizabeth Lawrence knew of Ida Bennett, too. Good luck in your research!

Bom Gomez said...

Whoah! I've been mostly offline since the year started so did not get to follow your adventure down the rabbit hole from the beginning. Good luck in your search!

Elaine said...

You just never know what you are going to dig up with you go down that rabbit hole. I am really looking forward to reading what you and Annie found out about Ida Bennett. And, I am still on the hunt for her books.

T said...

Hi everyone, today was my day to go down the rabbit hole in search of more info about Ida. The local library had a file dedicated to anyone with the family name of Bennett. Ida by far had the most information in the file. The historical/geneology room had copies of two of her books.

Born in Coldwater on Jan 3, 1860. I found reference to a brother William and a sister Mrs.Warren Blauvit in her fathers obituary. She graduated from an Art College in Chicago in 1885. She taught at a boarding school in Grand Haven MI, and then took a position at Emporia College in Kansas. while preparing to return home for the Summer she dropped her revolver and shot herself in the chest. Her brother was dispatched to bring her home to recover. after her recoverey she spent much time with her father who was a landscaper. She turned to writing to support herself.

Ida wrote at least 5 books and many published articles in American Homes and Garden magazine. Athens National Garden Association sponsored revisions of three of her books. Her life was filled with her gardens, she was generous with her flowers giving many to sick neighbors, skilled in the language of flowers she liked to match flowers to a personality.

Miss Ida Bennett lead a long productive life as a self supporting woman in a time when women did not have careers.

But she had a tragic end to her story. At he age of 73 she had been practically bedridden for 4 years, she was forced to sell her home. Ida then became despondent and committed suicide on April 4, 1925

I don't want you to feel sad for her. It sounds like she enjoyed life and had many friends. She enjoyed using her gardens to make many occasions in the Coldwater area festive. Her life story became part of a series written in 1986 about Historic Women for National Womens History Week.

As a side note she is not the only historic Woman from Coldwater, Harriet Quimby the first women to earn a pilots license also is from hear.


I hope you have all enjoyed my trip down the rabbit hole.
Theresa from Coldwater

T said...

I apologize for the mis-typed/spelled words. It is THE National Garden Association. I am practicing typing on a notepad instead of a real keyboard. It can be a challenge when you want to proof read and edit long texts. I could not scroll back.

Theresa

Carol said...

Theresa -- Thank you for going down in that rabbit hole to get this information for us. It is very helpful. You've brought up a real treasure chest full of great information and background! Thank you!!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

What a fascinating story! Thanks, Carol & Theresa.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

That was so cool. Thanks for the information everyone. It just shows how interesting everyone's life can be especially if they live with intention.

Annie in Austin said...

Thanks for doing the on-the-spot research, T! I found some of the story, including several mentions of the tragic ending, but it was not solid enough to share without verification ... your sources sure gave us that.

I downloaded the brochure on the Downtown Coldwater website and enjoyed a glimpse of your pretty town in this walking tour.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose