Ynés Mexía, an accomplished Latina botanist. Original artwork by Amelie Chabannes.
Releasing weekly on the American Masters and UNLADYLIKE2020
websites starting in March, Unladylike2020
is a multimedia series consisting of a one-hour special for broadcast and 26 digital short films featuring courageous, little-known and diverse female trailblazers from the turn of the 20th century. These women achieved many firsts, including earning an international pilot’s license, becoming a bank president, founding a hospital, fighting for the desegregation of public spaces, exploring the Arctic, opening a film studio, and singing opera at Carnegie Hall. Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020,
produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings these incredible stories back to life through original artwork and animation, rare historical archival footage, and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon the influence of these pioneers. On April 1, watch the story of Ynés Mexía (1870–1938), who began her scientific career late in life, after recovering from mental health issues. The Mexican American joined the Sierra Club and the budding environmental movement in San Francisco in the 1910s, became interested in botany at age 51, and enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She subsequently led expeditions across Mexico, Central America, and South America, becoming one of the most accomplished plant collectors of her time. She spent two-and-a-half years traveling some 3,000 miles along the Amazon River from its delta to its source in the Andes Mountains. In a 13-year career as a specimen collector for botanical institutions around the US, she discovered over 500 new species of plants, of which 50 are named in her honor. Interviewees: biographer Durlynn Anema
, author of The Perfect Specimen: The 20th Century Renowned Botanist Ynes Mexia;
ethnobotanist Ina Vandebroek,
Associate Curator and Caribbean Program Director for the New York Botanical Garden. A vast interactive website
features the stories of over 100 diverse and extraordinary women from the turn of the 20th century who broke barriers and achieved tremendous professional heights. Read on for more about this project, and PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers here
. UNLADYLIKE 2020 is supported by California Humanities through a California Documentary Project grant.