Elizabeth Coleman White 
By Kathleen McFadden

     Elizabeth Coleman White loved her family's New Jersey cranberry farm, Whitesbog. After finishing school in Philadelphia in 1887, Elizabeth went to work in the business, supervising cranberry pickers during the harvest season and helping with packing and shipping the fruit. During the winter, she took various courses at Drexel University, including first aid, photography, dressmaking, and millinery. 

     Elizabeth had long wanted to add blueberry production to the farm, so when she read a report in 1911 about Frederick Coville's work in blueberry propagation, she invited him to move to Whitesbog to continue his research. Although wild blueberries were abundant in the New Jersey Pinelands region, many farmers had tried to cultivate the fragile wild plant for commercial purposes and failed. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was determined to succeed, even though she had no formal horticultural education. 

     During the next five years, Elizabeth worked with Coville to produce a commercial crop of blueberries. She asked local people to help her find wild bushes with the best and biggest berries, and offered a bounty of $1 to $3 to woodsmen for marking the largest berry on each bush. She also named the plants after them. From these wild bushes, Elizabeth and Coville collected thousands of cuttings that they used to develop new varieties. Success came in 1916 when they produced a crop of 600 quarts. Elizabeth was the first grower to use cellophane wrappers over the small fruit baskets shipped to stores for sale. 

     Recognizing that effective marketing is just as important as successful cultivation, in 1927, she helped organize the New Jersey Blueberry Cooperative Association. Despite her accomplishments, Elizabeth's father did not allow her to inherit the business after his death because she was a woman, a decision that she resented. However, Elizabeth was the first woman member of the American Cranberry Association, and the first woman to receive the New Jersey Department of Agriculture citation. 

     By 1986, New Jersey's blueberry industry was second in the country in total production of blueberries. Elizabeth's next horticultural contribution was to establish nurseries for cultivating the local holly tree and the Franklinia, a rare type of magnolia bush discovered by 19th-century Philadelphia botanist John Bartram in Georgia. Eventually she was recognized as one of four key horticulturists specializing in hollies in the United States. 

     Elizabeth was born on October 5, 1871, and died on November 27, 1954.

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