Browse Exhibits (4 total)
Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie moved into the Wylie House in the mid-nineteenth century, when households were transitioning from large-scale agriculture to small-scale leisure gardening, or floriculture. This exhibit showcases the June 2018 field school run by a team of Indiana University students and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology staff to learn more about the Wylies’ garden “pits,” subterranean cold-frame greenhouses that insulated their flowers from harsh weather.
As Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie moved their family into Wylie House in 1859, a movement was
overtaking American society. An interest in horticulture, or appreciating plants apart from their
nutritional value, was no longer only for the elite, but became popular throughout all levels and
locations of American society. Americans of the Victorian era believed that getting back to nature was
the cure for industrialization and the ills of modernization. The wealthy of America were encouraged to
practice horticulture as a way to distance themselves from their material possessions. The middle class
was pushed to garden as a cure for the mental strain of modern life. Many organizations worked to
provide gardens and green space for the lower classes believing that gardening would inspire them.
Conservation was also in its infancy. City parks which gifted green space to those living in crowded urban
areas gained popularity. The first national parks were also carved out during the nineteenth century. The
people of 19 th century America appreciated the natural world and its benefits after witnessing an ever-
increasing industrialized landscape.
If anyone recognizes Louise Bradley’s name today, it is probably due not to her own talent as a writer, but to her connection with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop. This great-granddaughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie had a creative life of her own, however, and the diary she kept in the early 1930s sheds light on her writing, her time in college and after graduation, and her career as a research worker during the Great Depression and World War II.
The Wylie Women reflect contradictions between the maternal ideal, represented in women’s advice literature, and the complex realities of Midwestern, middle-class childrearing in the late nineteenth-century. This generational study of Elizabeth Louisa Wylie Boisen, Margaret Wylie Mellette, and Sarah Seabrook Mitchell Wylie examines the effect of social and economic factors on mothering experiences, revealing a shared struggle to uphold the expectations of nineteenth-century women.