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Edith Gertrude Schwartz Clements

 (1874 - 1971)
Edith Gertrude Schwartz Clements was active/lived in District Of Columbia, California.  Edith Clements is known for botanical illustration, wildflowers and floral landscape, author.

Edith Gertrude Schwartz Clements

Biography from the Archives of askART

Clements, Edith Gertrude Schwartz
(1874 Albany, New York-1971 La Jolla, California)

A botanical artist, ecologist, writer and teacher, Edith Clements became in 1904 the first woman at the University of Nebraska to earn a Ph.D. In 1900, she married Frederic Edward Clements, and from marriage until Frederic’s death in 1945, the couple worked closely together to determine the relationship of plants to environment and to establish a correlation between Darwin’s evolutionary theory of animals to evolutionary theories of plants they were developing. With Edith doing illustrations and assisting in research and both doing writing, they produced many publications including Adaptation and Origin in the Plant World: The Role of Environment in Evolution; Dynamics of Vegetation; Plant Succession; and Rocky Mountain Flowers. Of their collaboration, a Nebraska Press Association speaker at the Nebraska Hall of Fame ceremonies said that they became “the most illustrious husband-wife team since the Curies.” At the same event, it was also repeated that author Willa Cather, close friend of the Clements, had said that one of their publications was so good ”she would rather have written it than all of her novels.”

Edith Clements was described in her adult years as a dreamer, vivacious and fun loving and someone who humanized her very serious husband. She was born in Albany, New York, the oldest of five children of Emma Young and George Schwartz, a pork packer affiliated with Midwest stockyards. The family lived in Kansas and Nebraska, settling by 1885 in Omaha.  From their wedding in 1899 to 1907, Edith and Frederic were at the University of Nebraska where he, who had been born in Lincoln, was a full professor and she, having earned her PhD, was on the botany faculty from 1904 to 1907. The couple had met in the late 1890s when they both were students at the University and both elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At this time she was a teaching fellow in German, but influenced by Clements, switched to botany. And Clements, son of a Lincoln photographer, was a cadet under Lt. John J. Pershing, and a very serious student of the Science Department. With Roscoe Pound, future Dean of the Harvard Law School, Clements completed research, which earned both of them PhDs in botany and “won permanent places for themselves in the history of American science.” (Knoll 30-31)

Throughout their marriage, professional positions and love of travel took Edith and Frederic throughout the United States. From 1907 to 1917, he chaired the botany department of the University of Minnesota and directed the state’s Biological Survey. From 1917, for the remainder of his life, Frederic had research jobs, and for thirty-three years, Edith had illustration assignments with the Carnegie Institution and was based in Washington DC where the couple had their primary home.

However, in 1925, they began winters in Santa Barbara, California overseeing a Coastal Laboratory and spent summers in Pikes Peak, Colorado administering the Alpine Laboratory. After her husband died in 1945, Edith lived in California, and she continued writing, illustrating and publishing including a memoir and 1947 book: Flowers of Prairie and Woodland.

Sources:, Nov. 2014

“Clements Papers Document the History of Ecology,” posted 9/28/2011, American Heritage Center News, Web, Nov. 2014 

“Edith Schwartz Clements,” Nebraska Hall of Fame Inductees, Nov. 2014

Falk, Peter Hastings, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art, Volume I, Print

Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California, 1786-1940, Volume I, Print

Knoll, Robert E., Prairie University, pp. 30-31

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, 2015
Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Albany, NY on Oct. 5, 1874, Edith Clements, after obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, taught botany at that school during 1903-07 and at the University of Minnesota in 1909-13.

She married Frederic Clements in 1899. She was a resident of Santa Barbara, CA from the 1920s through 1942. For 33 years she illustrated for the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC.

An ecologist, she was the author-illustrator of several books on wild flowers including Herbaria Ecadium Californiae (1914) and Flowers of the Coast and Sierra (1929).

Mrs. Clements died in La Jolla, CA on June 30, 1971.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in California 1942; Death record.

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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About  Edith Gertrude Schwartz Clements

Born:  1874 - Albany, New York
Died:   1971 - La Jolla, California
Known for:  botanical illustration, wildflowers and floral landscape, author