History of the Butterfly, Part 41: Helen’s Life and a New Mystery

Last Friday I went to the third floor of The University of Iowa’s Main Library, and visited the “Iowa Women’s Archives”.   I was hoping to find some information about Helen Eliza Fitch Parker there.  The archives of the Bradley Family listed Abijah Fitch, who was Helen’s father, and Cornelia Fitch, who was Helen’s sister.  After a couple of hours of searching, we decided to look in some of the baby books.  There we found a photograph of the Fitch family.

The long exposures (15 minutes or so) of the daguerreotype photo process used for the original this was copied from explains the somber  looks on the faces of the family.

Helen Eliza Fitch (Parker)

So there is Helen in the bottom right of the photograph.

Helen was introduced to this blog with a long list of books that she had written and published.  Some were historical novels, at least one was a romance, and three were religious instruction (Sunday School) books with a distinct natural history theme.  Those three natural history books were published with the author designated simply as “H.F.P.”

The book Rambles After Land Shells, which is available on-line, was used to show that Helen had a very detailed understanding of terrestrial snail biology.

I speculated in two posts that Helen may have found an undescribed snail and encouraged her future Brother-in-Law (incorrectly identifying the person in the “smackdown” story as her Father-in-Law) to present a paper to the National Academy for the Advancement of Science.  I also speculated in the second of those posts that Helen discovered and possibly wrote the description of  the Poweshiek skipper, although her husband Henry published it.

Henry and Helen had no children when they moved to Iowa in 1865.  However, this postage-stamp sized photograph was found in a baby book with the inscription “Cornelia, with Mrs. H. F. Parker and her son.”

A number of questions remain.

Photos courtesy Iowa Women’s Archives, the University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.  Not to be reproduced without permission from the Iowa Women’s Archives:  http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa
Top two photos were from the Prentiss Family papers, and the bottom photo was from the Cornelia-Prentiss Shranger papers.

About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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