Thursday, June 7, 2018

Women who changed the world: Greta Stevenson

Greta Stevenson [Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa - C-17974]
"New Zealanders were introduced to the native mushrooms of New Zealand in a series of five papers published between 1962 and 1964. The author was Greta Stevenson who began collecting mushrooms in the late 1940s and through the 1950s culminating in her going to Kew to work in the herbarium and prepare a manuscript for publication. ‘The Agaricales of New Zealand’ series was published in Kew Bulletin with the Nuffield Foundation funding the printing of the coloured plates. Marie Taylor told me that Greta was terribly disappointed in the colour reproduction of her watercolours.
In her biography, Kay McFarlane says that Greta went to Wellington in 1970 where she worked for ten years as an unpaid research officer in the Botany Department at Victoria University of Wellington. She also says that from 1980 to 1981 Greta worked at the University of Canterbury’s Botany Department where, while undertaking research, she conducted a number of workshops and study courses on larger fungi. This is not totally correct. In her obituary of Greta, Marie Taylor noted that “Her characteristic acerbic comment leaves us in no doubt of her position on controversial topics”.  A falling out with the Botany Department in 1980 saw Greta move to the Geology department. In 1981 I attended an extension course on identifying larger fungi run by Greta at Victoria University. Greta used the notes she produced for this course for her book Field Guide to Fungi (1982) which was reprinted after her death as New Zealand Fungi: an Illustrated Guide (1994). Unfortunately, Greta fell out with the Geology Department which resulted in her move to Christchurch and then to England where she died in 1991."

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