The Material Culture of Floristry as a Gendered Practice in London, 1920-1960

Lead Research Organisation: Kingston University
Department Name: Sch of Cultural Industry, Critical Study


While there has been some examination of the cultural use of cut flowers, and the trade networks and relationships within the contemporary cut flower trade from harvest to vase, there has been no in-depth research undertaken on the gendering and material history of professional floristry in the twentieth century.
This project will examine the professional floristry trade in London from 1920 to 1960. In doing so it will focus on gender, training, employment and business ownership in the changing contexts of war and peacetime economies, female emancipation, changes in employment law, state education provision, and technological developments.
Using the primary sources of trade publications, photographs, instruction manuals and novels, geographical references, organisational archives, and my knowledge of floristry practice, this research project seeks to show the importance of this overlooked field in terms of cultural history, gender and material culture. The outcome will be a written thesis comprising of selected case studies looking at specific floristry businesses, such as Constance Spry's Flower Decoration in Mayfair, that establishes for the first time the significance of the material culture of floristry in London as a gendered practice.
The period covers significant developments in professional floristry including the establishment of the first florists delivery network in 1923 (Florist Telegraph Delivery Association, latterly known as Interflora), emergence in 1935 of Constance Spry as a household name and influencer, introduction of formal floristry qualifications by RHS in 1950, introduction of floral foam to Britain by Smithers Oasis in 1957), the impact of war on imported and domestic flower supply chains.


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