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New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., Lantern Slide AQ7 (detail)

glass lantern slide

"Life History of the Bud Moth" c. 1910

This slide was not the gift of entomologist Caroline Heustis, but its subject lay within her sphere of expertise.

 

Caroline E. Heustis

 

Nearly twelve years before women begin to show up as members of the Natural History Society's administrative "Library" and "Rooms" committees, and over fifteen years before women first appear on the more "scientific" committees (such as ornithology or botany), we find Mrs. C. E. Heustis listed as one of three members of the standing committee on invertebrates. Her name first appeared in 1882, then vanished, returning again in 1887 under the entomology committee where it remained until 1891. During this period, Heustis's was the only woman's name on any NHS committee.

 

Perhaps it was her standing as an accomplished and published naturalist which secured for Heustis a position that was not usually open to women. Her meticulous observations on insects particularly lepidopterans were periodically published as research notes and letters to the editor of The Canadian Entomologist, a respected scientific journal. These entries reveal her experimental approach to scientific research as well as her propensity for careful observation. From 1879 to 1883, she could be found systematically searching various ecological settings for insect specimens, remarking on the population densities of specific butterfly and moth species, noting variations within species, conducting larva-raising experiments in "breeding boxes," testing methods for driving away pantry beetles and recording all of her observations with precision.   

 

 
 

-         New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., Lantern Slide AQ59 (detail)

glass lantern slide

"Tent Caterpillars" c. 1910

This slide was not the gift of entomologist Caroline Heustis, but caterpillars and moths were her scholarly focus.

 

The details of Caroline's educational and personal life are unfortunately blurry. It is not until 1883 that we see her name prefaced with a "Mrs." in the Canadian Entomologist submissions, and it seems she made a move from the Saint John area to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia in the summer of 1882. Could she have been married at this time? Possibly, although she did not take on a new name thereafter. In fact, she seems to have been the only married associate (female) member of the Natural History Society to be listed under her own, rather than her husband's name. (Katherine Matthew, for example, was always referred to as Mrs. George F. Matthew in official NHS records.) Another possibility is that Caroline was a widow in 1883 and into the twentieth century. Whatever her marital status, it is clear that she maintained ties with Saint John and probably traveled quite regularly between that city and her new Parrsboro home. In 1904 she is listed as a corresponding member of the Natural History Society.

 

In her capacity as a member of the standing committees on invertebrates and entomology, Caroline would have been consulted on matters pertaining to insects, mollusks, spiders and other fauna. In 1881, she took charge of and mounted a large collection of insects for the NHS Museum. She also donated a number of beetles, clams and oyster shells from her "collecting tours" around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Her published notes in Canadian Entomologist  testify to her reputation within the scientific community and her authority as a respected naturalist. Likewise the ringing endorsement from leading New Brunswick entomologist William McIntosh, who in 1899 identified Caroline Heustis as "the pioneer entomologist of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick."

 

 


Sources

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Bulletins of the Natural History Society, 1882-1904.

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Christopher Majka, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

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Daily Telegraph, 7 December 1904.

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McIntosh, W. 1899. "The Butterflies of New Brunswick." Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick 17: 114121.

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The Canadian Entomologist, 11,1 (1879): 39; 12,1 (1880): 19-20; 13,1 (1881): 143-4; 15,2 (1883): 57-8.