Genevieve Estelle Jones (Ohio), Scientific Illustrator
Even though technically it’s not Women’s History Month anymore I’m going to keep these posts going through the year – because these amazing women deserve more!
Ms. Jones, a self-taught scientific illustrator, is having a bit of a posthumous renaissance. There is a new book about her life and an article in a recent issue of Country Living.
Born in Ohio to a somewhat-wealthy, intellectual household, Ms. Jones visited the 1876 Exposition to mend a broken heart after her parents would not allow her to wed her choice of suitor. At the Exposition she saw illustrations from Audubon’s bird studies and decided to illustrate the nests herself. Her father encouraged her in this project, although he cautioned her to limit herself to the birds of Ohio.
Using the same materials as Audubon and nests her father collected, Ms. Jones only finished a small portion of the illustrations before dying of typhoid fever. On her deathbed she asked her family to finish the project for her. They did, although it nearly ruined them financially and several other family members succumbed to typhoid in the process.
In the late 1800’s illustrated large works were financed Kickstarter-style, by subscription. Owners preordered copies and paid in advance to fund the printing. Each plate was printed and then hand-colored. Very few original copies remain, but happily the entire volume is available online for you to enjoy.
During Ms. Jones’ lifetime women had precious few options outside of marriage. I very much admire her drive and determination to find an outlet for her formidable talents. Although she was not long for this world her work stands the test of time.
View the book