Why is “Mother Nature” a Woman?

Illustration by Zoe Frederick
Illustration by Zoë Frederick

Mother Nature

A recurring character that transcends cultures, Mother Nature personifies the nurturing and replenishing qualities of the natural world. While the first reference to Mother Nature in English occurred in 1266 C.E., the first actual written reference was in Mycenaeane Greek, in the 12th or 13th century B.C.E. Meanwhile, myths of nature goddesses date all the way back to the 3rd millennium B.C.E. Known by many names (Gaia, Persephone, Inanna), nature has consistently been imagined as a woman. The idea was solidified during the Enlightenment. In order to be studied, nature could not be analogous to God—which meant that it had to be a woman.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” —Rachel Carson

This article originally appeared in the Mothers & Grandmothers issue. For more inspiring stories about women, check out How I Started My Own Family Film Business and This Conservationist is Fixing the Global Poaching Problem in a Unique Way.

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