Women's History Month Spotlight: Elizabeth White - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Women's History Month Spotlight: Elizabeth White

Elizabeth White at her farm in Whitesbog, New Jersey. (Source: Whitesbog Village) Elizabeth White at her farm in Whitesbog, New Jersey. (Source: Whitesbog Village)
White and botonist Frank Coville (Courtesy: Whitesbog Village) White and botonist Frank Coville (Courtesy: Whitesbog Village)
(Courtesy: Whitesbog Village) (Courtesy: Whitesbog Village)
(Courtesy: Whitesbog Village) (Courtesy: Whitesbog Village)
(KFVS) -

March is Women’s History Month and in the spotlight for March 10, 2016 is Elizabeth White (1871 – 1954), the woman who made it possible for you to buy blueberries at the grocery store.

Until the early 20th century, you could only find blueberries in wild patches, and people believed the berry could never be domesticated

Elizabeth White was the daughter of a New Jersey cranberry farmer, who believed blueberries would add to her family’s harvest.

She teamed up with botanist Frederick Coville, to cross-breed wild blueberry bushes, and create new commercially viable varieties.

Coville worked with the USDA, and gave White the scientific skill from his lab in Washington, while White recruited people living near her New Jersey home and added practical knowledge to the project.

She challenged woodsmen to find as many wild varieties of blueberries as possible, paid them for each bush that had at least 5/8 inch wide berries, and had them guide her to the bushes after the season so she could dig them up.

White propagated the wild blueberry bushes into hundreds of plants, identifying the best ones and cross-breeding them to create hardy plants with the biggest, sweetest berries.

White and Coville harvested and sold the first commercial crop of 17 crates of blueberries in 1916 under the label of the Tru-Blu Berry Company, making 2016 the 100 year anniversary of highbush blueberries.

In 1932, the state of New Jersey awarded White for her outstanding contributions to agriculture, and declared the blueberry as it’s state berry in 2003.

And by 2014, 1 billion pounds of blueberries were produced on five continents.

White's farm still exists, is open to visitors, and continues to do research on both blueberries and cranberries.

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