Marion Satterlee

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Marion Satterlee (?–after 1905)[1] was an American botanical artist who in 1893 illustrated the first field guide to North American wildflowers.

Drawing of golden ragwort (Senecio aureus) by Marion Satterlee, from How to Know the Wild Flowers by Frances Theodora Parsons, 1893.
Drawing of larger bur marigold (Bidens chrysanthemoides) by Marion Satterlee, from How to Know the Wild Flowers by Frances Theodora Parsons, 1893.


Marion Satterlee was a friend of the naturalist and author Frances Theodora Parsons, and their walks together inspired Parsons to sit down and write her long-meditated first book, How to Know the Wild Flowers (1893).[2][3] At Parsons' insistence, Satterlee illustrated both this book and its sequel, How to Know the Ferns (1899).[4] For How to Know the Wild Flowers—which was the first field guide to North American wildflowers and a great popular success that stayed in print into the 1940s[5]—she created 110 full-page black-and-white illustrations, which were complemented by color plates by Elsie Louise Shaw.[2] The writer and New Yorker editor Katharine Sergeant Angell White, writing many decades later, termed the book a classic and remarked on the excellence of Satterlee's line drawings.[6]

For How to Know the Ferns, Satterlee and a second artist, Alice Josephine Smith, created 42 full-page plates and over two dozen smaller black-and-white illustrations from pen drawings. (The illustrations include initials, either a.j.s or MS, to identify the artist of each drawing.) Satterlee also provided a description of the Woodwardia ferns.[7]

Personal history[edit]

Satterlee lived in New York City, and she apparently took some courses in plant illustration after Parsons asker her to illustrate How to Know the Wild Flowers.[3] Other information about her origins and upbringing is scarce. Given the social circles she moved in as a friend of Parsons, she may be the Marion Satterlee who was a sister of lawyer and government official Herbert L. Satterlee.[8] If so, her parents were George Bowen Satterlee and Sarah (Wilcox) Satterlee.


  1. ^ A Poland, Maine news circular lists her as a visitor in the summer of 1905. See The Hilltop, vol. 12, no. 1, July 2, 1905.
  2. ^ a b Frances Theodora Parsons (Mrs. Wm Starr Dana), Sierra College Natural History Museum, Retrieved 14 August 2015
  3. ^ a b Finger, Mary. "Who Is Mrs. William Starr Dana?". On the Fringe (Jornal of the Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio), vol. 23, no. 3 (December 2005), pp. 16–18.
  4. ^ "Frances Theodora Parsons (a.k.a., Mrs. William Starr Dana)". Cassandra Considers All Things Bright and Beautiful (blog), Sept. 8, 2010. Accessed Dec. 4, 2015.
  5. ^ Raymo, Chet. The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe. New York: Walker & Co., 2003.
  6. ^ White, Katharine. Onward and Upward in the Garden. New York: New York Review of Books, 1979
  7. ^ Parsons, Frances Theodora. Preface to How to Know the Ferns. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907.
  8. ^ "What Is Doing in Society". New York Times, Nov. 15, 1900.

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