The Thinking 

Flowers for Sale

November 3, 2017


Louis Marie de Shriver

IT’S ABOUT TIME has been posting interesting paintings of flower sellers of the past. They include this French painting by Louis Marie de Shryver (1862-1942), Selling Flowers Elysee. Selling flowers was a humble, but profitable occupation for women on the streets of Europe. Barbara Wells Sarudy writes:

When some think street flower sellers, they picture Eliza Doolittle, the flower seller in Covent Garden who went from rags to riches, thanks to the attentions of Professor Higgins, in George Bernard Shaw’s (1856-1950) Pygmalion. Her rise out of poverty was hardly typical. Flower sellers were common on the streets of London, Paris, & other European urban centers. We can glean some information about British flower sellers from Victorian London census records which reveal that most were married women & widows ranging from older teens to women in their 50s, single women, mostly enumerated as “daughter” are far fewer & make up a small percentage of the total. We can see the occasional “flower girl” who was put out onto the streets to sell flowers in order to help with the family income. Flower sellers didn’t just sell cut flowers, which had to be sourced at dawn, taken home, made up into bunches & then taken out onto the streets to sell from a basket, wheelbarrow, hand cart, or temporary stall in high traffic areas such as informal markets or lining the streets of busy thoroughfares. They also sold pot plants, “roots,” seeds. There was a hierarchy within the occupation as described by Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) in London Labour & the London Poor. [cont.]

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