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Twenty20 Creative

'Euphemia' is the name of the wooden rowing boat moored on the lake in front of you.

Euphemia Ethel Elizabeth Spencer Middleton Henderson (1820 – 1907) was a governess and wildflower watercolour artist. 

Through family connections she became acquainted with Gardens Director and Government Botanist, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, and was engaged to him for six months in 1863.

Euphemia was born in Valparaiso, Chile. Her father was a captain in the East India Company and the Royal Navy, and she spent much of her childhood on a family estate on Guernsey and later on the Isle of Man. Euphemia migrated to Australia with her sister Georgiana, who married settler John David McHaffie. She worked as a governess and also lived with the McHaffies on Phillip Island, which the family leased from the government as a grazing property.

Through her brother-in-law, Euphemia met Mueller and they collected specimens together at Phillip Island. He named a slender Western Australian shrub, Nematolepis euphemiae F.Muell., for her. You can learn more about the relationship between Mueller and Euphemia in Flora and the Baron  a narrative audio tour of the Gardens by Bowerbird Theatre.

Forty-four letters from Mueller to Euphemia and many of her watercolour flower paintings are held in the State Botanical Collection. Lightscape shines a light on Euphemia to celebrate the role of women in science, botany, art and horticulture.

In 2002, thanks to the generosity of the Fox family, this 13-ft wooden rowing boat was constructed and gifted to the Gardens. The clinker-built vessel was named Euphemia in honor of Euphemia Henderson. It was hand-built by Blunt’s Boat Builders of Williamstown using traditional methods and salvaged timber.

Euphemia is launched again for Lightscape.



Lightscape, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

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