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The Aromatic Women's History Guide (AWHG)™

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We are in the process of expanding this page!  Your ideas are welcome!

We appreciate, respect, and acknowledge the contributions of Rene Maurice Gattefosse, Jean Valnet, and Robert Tisserand, the grandfathers and fathers of aromatherapy.  But we became very curious about the grandmothers and mothers of aromatherapy.  Who are they?  What did they contribute?  The goal of the Aromatic Women's History Guide is to highlight the achievements of dynamic women and uncover some lesser known facts of history.  Here is a sampling of the remarkable history of aromatic women.

To add data to this project, please email Katherine.  To be part of this project, one must have invented, written, or created a significant invention, book, or product in the industry.  All valid entries will be added to the AWHG database.  Those of significance will be added to this website, space permitting.  What follows is HerStory.

Grace Mary Chess Robinson (Mary Chess)
Era: 1930's
Location: American living in London
Title: Founder of Mary Chess
Created perfumes using only natural ingredients.  Her first perfume was White Lilac in 1933.
"The company holds royal warrants to supply the Queen Mother and other royalty (Groom, 141 - 2)."

Era: Around 1492 B.C.
Location: Punt (coast of East Africa, probably where Somalia is today)
Title: Queen
Controlled the frankincense and myrrh trade of the ancient world.  Sold live myrrh trees to Hatshepsut on her expedition to Punt.

Africa1.wmf (8754 bytes)

Cleopatra Seven                                                            
Era: 69 B.C. - 10 A.D.
Location: Egypt
Title: Queen
Anecdote: Sailed a perfumed barge filled with roses to meet Marc Antony.  Scented her hands
with kyphi and annointed her feet with egyptium.

Era: Around 1500 B.C.
Location: Thebes, Egypt
Title: Pharaoh
Reopened a canal to the Great Green from the Nile River to the Red Sea.  Sent expeditions to Punt bringing back 30 Myrrh trees with roped root balls for the resin that was burned in the temples.  This was documented on the temple at Thebes.
Received "daily massages with scented oils."  Oil of ani was her favorite.   "An inscription on one of her monuments says, 'her fragrance was like a divine breath, her scent reached as far as the land of Punt' (Leon, 46)."

Queen Marie of Medicis
Era: 1519 - 1589
Location: Italy/France
Title: Queen.  Daughter of the Italian Duke of Urbino.  Married the future King Henry II of France.
"She was instrumental in setting up a laboratory in Grasse for the study of perfume-making in order to rival the fashionable Arab perfumes of the time, for which she is regarded by some as the founder of the French perfume industry (Groom, 143)."
Used a cologne created by Rene the Florentine, documented in Le Secret des Medicis, that gave her and Diane de Poitier youthful skin.

Madame Marguerite Maury
Era: 1895 - 1968
Location: England, France
Title: Esthetician
Set up first aromatherapy clinics in Paris, the U.K., and Switzerland.
Received two international prizes for studies on essential oils and cosmetology.
The Secret of Life and Youth -- 1964.

Florence Nightingale
Correspondence exists that shows Ms. Nightingale used aromatic substances.  Ms. Nightingale sent a letter on April 7, 1856 to the Principal Medical store-keeper at Balaclava General Hospital requesting 6  4 ounce bottles of Tincture of Myrrh.  This was a week after the end of the Crimean War.

Mary Prophetissa (Prophetissima)
aka: Mary of Cleofa, Maria the Jewess, Miriam, sister of Moses
Era: First Century A.D.
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Title: Alchemist
Invented the double boiler, also known as a Bain Marie, le bain de Marie, bano-Maria, or Mary's Bath.  Invented the first true still which she called the tribokos.  It consisted of copper tubing, ceramic pottery, and metal.  "When heated, vapors from plant material and water would condense on the inside of the still, then trickle down and collect in a bottle (Leon, 66)."  Avicenna later used this prototype to distill essential oils.
The Dialogue of Maria and Aros on the Magistery of Hermes

Groom, Nigel.  The Perfume Handbook.  London: Chapman & Hall, 1992.
Lawless, Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils.
Leon, Vicki.  Outrageous Women of Ancient Times.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1998.
Leon, Vicki.  Uppity Women of Ancient Times.  Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 1995.
Nightingale, Florence. Correspondence. Balaclava: 1856.

Copyright 1999 - 2005 Katherine Graf. All rights reserved.
04/12/2005 16:37:04