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Beehives, Booze and Suffragettes: The “Sad Case” of Ellen S. Tupper (1822–1888), the “Bee Woman” and “Iowa Queen Bee”

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ELLEN S. TUPPER was a 19th century expert bee-keeper who was most active during and shortly after the end of the American Civil War. A vigorous writer and apiarist, primarily focused on business interests and opportunities, she became the first female editor of an entomological journal in 1869. Joining the mid-western suffragettes, who at this time were also strongly linked to the temperance societies, she was soon presented as a role model of a successful businesswoman the early feminist movement. Together with ANNIE NOWLIN SAVERY (1831-1891), a leading American suffragette of her time, she established the "Italian Bee Company". For a short period, ELLEN S. TUPPER successfully imported and distributed Italian queens and bees to an interested American audience, while she actively promoted bee keeping as a suitable endeavour for women. Her reports on successful fertilization of bee queens that were held in confinement sparked a lively and controversial discussion among entomologists not only in America but also in Europe. At the height of her career she became the first female lecturer in apiology and the first woman elected to serve as an officer in a national entomological society. At the same meeting more than 30 other suffragettes joined the "North American Beekeepers' Society". This was a symbolic and perhaps even defining moment of female activity in science during the 19th century. Her activities soon earned her nicknames such as "Iowa Queen Bee" or the "Bee Woman". However, financial difficulties put an end to most of her business endeavours. Her career as an apiarist and editor came to a disgraceful end when she was incarcerated for the forgery of notes presented at several banks, subsequently acquitted on the ground of insanity. The forgery trial though has overshadowed ELLEN S. TUPPER's legacy in the history of women in science: As a farmer's wife in one of the frontier towns of the Wild West, in a county, which on her first arrival did not even possess a printing press, she was able to start a successful and impressive career as an editress. With her work she and a few like-minded supporters practically single-handedly recruited more women for entomological societies than all other European and American societies and institutions in the 19th century together. For nearly two and a half decades she went on a stubborn and effective crusade to convince women to become bee-keepers.
3D-overview of Des Moines (ANDREAS 1875), briefl y after the time when ELLEN S. TUPPER relocated to the city and established the "Italian Bee Company" together with ANNIE N. SAVERY. The legend at the bottom of the map identifi es by embedded numbers several landmarks of old Des Moines. The noted "Savery House", however, is not the "Savery House" but the old "Savery Hotel". The private home of ANNIE N. SAVERY, where the company originally kept its bees, is not shown on the map, because it had been destroyed by a fi re. It was located along one of the bluffs of the Racoon River (river in the front), at the feet of the small hill on the left side of the engraving. ELLEN S. TUPPER's Des Moines home and famous bee farm in the Cottage Grove was located behind that hill. The map in general illustrates Des Moines as a rapidly growing city with for its time modern features such as multiple railways, a telegraphic line, several steam-powered factories and a horse driven streetcar. Particularly the railways lines were important for the "Italian Bee Company", which tried to upscale the Italian queen bee shipping business. (Image source: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division; house locations were reconstructed from ANONYMOUS 1874y; NOUN 1969; NOUN & BOHLMANN 2002 and information that can be found in the "National Bee Journal"). Abb. 8: 3D-Übersicht von Des Moines (ANDREAS 1875) kurz nach der Zeit, als ELLEN S. TUPPER in die Stadt zog und zusammen mit ANNIE N. SAVERY die "Italian Bee Company" gründete. Die Legende am unteren Bildrand identifi ziert mit Hilfe von im Bild eingebetteten Nummern verschiedene Wahrzeichen des alten Des Moines. Das markierte "Savery House" ist allerdings das "Savery Hotel". Das private Heim von ANNIE N. SAVERY, wo die "Italian Bee Company" ihre Bienen hielt, ist nicht mehr auf der Karte dargestellt, da es bereits von einem Feuer zerstört worden war. Das "Savery House" stand nahe einer der Uferböschungen des Racoon River (Fluss im Vordergrund), am Fuße des kleinen Hügels, der auf der Karte am linken Rand zu sehen ist. Das Haus von ELLEN S. TUPPER befand sich hinter diesem Hügel im sogenannten Cottage Grove. Die Karte im Gesamten zeigt Des Moines als eine damals rapide wachsende Stadt mit vielen für die damalige Zeit modernen Errungenschaften, wie beispielsweise das Vorhandensein mehrerer Eisenbahnlinien, einer Telegraphenstation, dampfbetriebener Fabriken und einer von Pferden gezogenen Straßenbahn. Insbesondere die Eisenbahnanbindung war für die "Italian Bee Company" von großer Wichtigkeit, um das Versandgeschäft von italienischen Bienenköniginnen auszudehnen. Bildquelle: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division; die rekonstruierten Ortsangaben in der Bildunterschrift basieren auf ANONYMOUS 1874y; NOUN 1969; NOUN & BOHLMANN 2002 sowie Informationen aus dem "National Bee Journal".
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