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.
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.
1 Cover of Kukkaistarhan hoito (care of flower garden).
2 Pages from Smirnoff's Suomen pomologiian käsikirja
(Finnish handbook of pomology).