Elizabeth Taylor

Danish Faroe Islands
Danish Faroe Islands

Notable Facts

Discovered and recorded two unknown insects, one of which was given her nane Pseudosiana Taylori.First Caucasian woman to accompany the Hudson Bay Fur Company on a fur-gathering expedition down Canada's MacKenzie River to its delta.First English-speaking woman to traverse Norway's Hardanger Vidda, the upland summer pastures, throughout its greatest length and over its highest ridges.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

01/08/1856

Date of Death

03/08/1932

Primary Residence

Rochester

Religion

Catholic

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Elizabeth Taylor, artist, writer, botanist and explorer, was born in Columbus, Ohio on January 8, 1856. The fifth daughter of Chloe (Langford) and James J. Taylor, American Consul in Winnepeg (1870-1893), experienced her first trip at the age of six months when the family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, her father's home state. Taylor was raised with education and adventure. Accompanying her father on frequent business trips throughout Canada, Minnesota and Washington, Taylor developed a love for nature and the great outdoors.

Taylor attended art school, first in New York and later in Paris, and continued private endeavors in Venice, Florence and other locations. During her father's twenty-year tenure as consul to Manitoba, she traveled (often alone) under the protection of the Catholic Church and experienced the wild grandeur and the then untouched beauty of the Canadian Northwest.

Taylor attended the last great Sun Dance allowed to be given by the Indian tribes of Canada and was the first white/Caucasian/non-native woman to accompany the Hudson Bay Fur Company on a fur-gathering expedition down the MacKenzie River to its delta " the land of the Eskimo. Later trips took her to Alaska and in 1893 she toured Norway on ponyback, "traversing Hardanger Vidda, the upland summer pastures, throughout its greatest length and over its highest ridges."

In 1895 while headed to Iceland to study Eider Duck farms, Taylor's boat stopped at Thorshavn, capital city and principal port of the Danish Faroe Islands. After one look at this desolate spot with its little sod-roofed wooden houses, Taylor knew she would return. Five years later, in May of 1900, Taylor returned to the islands for an almost six-year stay, "always curious about nature and mankind, feeling that no hardships were too great if she could catch an elusive fish, get a glimpse of a certain rare flower or watch the great whale hunts." Taylor would next return to these same islands in early 1914, and was effectively "marooned" throughout World War I, performing relief work among an almost starving people who expected at any time to fall under the German army. She studied plant and bird life and immersed herself in the folklore, superstitions, customs and dances of the Faroes. As an amateur botanist, she was the first to discover and record two unknown insects, one of which was given her name, Pseudosiana Taylori.

Taylor wrote of her amazing and oftentimes harrowing experiences, submitting her stories to British and American newspapers and magazines. However, "writing did not come easy to Mistela (as the Faroe Islanders called her) -- one short article would take months of study and of concentrated and conscientious labor."

In July 1919, at the age of sixty-three Taylor said goodbye to her beloved Faroe Islands for the last time. Five years later found her in Rochester, having visited Vermont in 1888 and again, in 1908 when she had spent part of a summer in Dorset. In 1909 she had been in Windham and Bennington giving club talks about her Faroe Island adventures. For the following two summers she was a summer boarder at the small Rochester North Hollow farm of Mrs. Blanche Dunham Hubbard, doing a little painting and writing two articles for the Atlantic Monthly. But it wasn't until many years later in 1924 that Taylor returned permanently to North Hollow and built a rather primitive two-room cabin on the Hubbard property. Her love of flowers resulted in beautiful flower and rock gardens at Wake Robin Cabin, where today many of those flowers still return each Spring.

Taylor died on Tuesday, March 8, 1932 at 6:00 in the evening.

Occupations

  • Explorer
  • Artist
  • Journalist
  • Botanist

Education

  • Grade School, Art School

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Biographical Information Link

Additional Images

Hardanger Vidda, Norway
Hardanger Vidda, Norway