Harriet Keeler, in the company of countless other middle- and upper-class American women at the turn of the 20th century, navigated through cultural restrictions using preconceived ideals of womanhood as a springboard for creating professional and personal opportunities.
While her work as an author and educator were informed by societal boundaries, these acceptable outlets for Keeler's intellectual life proved frutiful.
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Keeler's writing style was informed by her experience as a teacher and vast knowledge of botany, language, and literature.
Her work as a nature writer offers a glimpse into the way privileged women operated within and utilized conservative gender roles to better their own lives and make substantial, lasting contributions to society.
By the time of Keeler's first foray into publishing nature writing, a tradition of women botanists preceded her.
The opportunities and experiences afforded to Harriet Keeler as a teacher and student converged with the release of her first book on amateur botany in 1894, .
While the administration of schools remained predominately in the hands of men, the field of teaching became the domain of women. After a short stint teaching, Harriet Keeler studied at a college preparatory school and proceeded to attend Oberlin College.
Keeler's decision to attend Oberlin College in the 1860s set her apart from her female peers; co-educational and women's colleges were scarce, but would grow in popularity toward the end of the century.Through her chosen vocations, Keeler provided lasting contributions to Cleveland in the social changes she helped push forward, the lives she touched as a teacher, and the legacy of her written word.Harriet Keeler's life also inspired a different type of tribute.An extensive knowledge of science, Latin terminology, and classical literature, combined with the educator's sensibility for arranging information in a comprehensive and digestible format, can be credited for the popular success of Keeler's writing. Not only did her book coincide with the first realized efforts to develop a park system in Cleveland, but the concept of nature was finding new relevance throughout the United States.An increasingly literate female and male population was enamored with birds, flowers, and trees.Additionally, a division between "scientific" and "recreational" botany emerged early in the century - the latter being cast from the world of science and left to the musings of writers and women.