Alexandra Smirnoff is, without doubt, the great pioneer of Finnish pomology, i.e., the study of fruits. She started studying the field in 1873 in Södermanland in Sweden under the supervision of the renowned pomologist Olof Eneroth. Eneroth was editing an extensive manual of pomology, and because Smirnoff knew Russian, she was assigned the classification of Russian fruits. As Eneroth's health was failing, he gave Smirnoff more and more responsibility for cultivation experiments and research work.

After returning to Finland in 1876, Smirnoff devoted her time entirely to pomology. She was granted a free pass on the state railway, which enabled her to travel in different parts of the country giving advice and collecting material for a Finnish handbook on pomology, which was published in 1894. Smirnoff's publications in the field of pomology and gardening are numerous, the most extensive being the re-edition of the above-mentioned Swedish Handbook of Pomology, compiled between 1896 and 1902. For years, Smirnoff edited the gardening column of the magazine Koti ja yhteiskunta (Home and Society). Thanks to Smirnoff's efforts, sustainable fruits from Russia found their way into Finnish gardens.

Alexandra Smirnoff became an honorary member in several gardening societies and pomological associations, and in 1907 she was granted a state pension for her work.

Female pioneers in agriculture

The first woman agronomist in Finland, Suoma Kyykoski, graduated from the Mustiala agricultural school in 1906. The first woman to obtain a doctorate in the field was Synnöve von Hausen in 1936. In her dissertation she studied the nitrogen fixation and bacterial flora of leguminous plants. Von Hausen worked in the Valio laboratory under the Nobel Prize winner A.I. Virtanen. Soon after the completion of her dissertation, she married and moved to Sumatra. During the Second World War she was detained in a concentration camp by the Japanese. After the war, she worked briefly at her old job at Valio before moving to South Africa in 1953. She was employed by the South African Ministry of Agriculture until her retirement.

Home economics

The first person to complete a doctorate in the field of home economics was Elli Saurio, whose dissertation on women farmers use of time was approved by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Helsinki in 1947. After the Second World War, disciplines and professorships that were related to home economics (and thus attracted female students and professors) were established in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

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1 Cover of Kukkaistarhan hoito (care of flower garden).

2 Pages from Smirnoff's Suomen pomologiian käsikirja (Finnish handbook of pomology).