About the Artist
In the Summer of 2010, in issue 86 of the American Botanical Councils publication, HerbalGram, The Journal of the American Botanical Council, Kelly E. Lindner wrote a scholarly memorial to Dr. Jean Andrews titled: Jean Andrews 1923-2010. In it she states, "Jean Andrews, PhD, known so widely as “The Pepper Lady®” that she had the name registered, passed away on January 7, 2010, at the age of 86. Dr. Andrews is well-known for her internationally acclaimed books on the genus Capsicum, some of which feature her pepper expertise, photography, botanical drawings, and/or paintings. Her best-selling book Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums, published by University of Texas (UT) Press in 1984 and later re-published in 2 subsequent editions, includes scientific, cultural, and historical information about peppers.
Aside from peppers, Dr. Andrews was recognized for her books on shells and wildflowers. Such books included The Texas Bluebonnet (UT Press, 1986), Sea Shells of the Texas Coast (UT Press, 1972), and American Wildflower Florilegium (University of North Texas [UNT] Press, 1992).
Dr. Andrews was born in Kingsville, Texas in 1923.2 She began collecting chiltepins (hot wild peppers) as a young girl in South Texas at the request of her mother. Dr. Andrews once reported in an interview that these peppers were too hot for her to eat, though she did often hide them in her chocolate-covered cherries to deter her brother from eating them.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from UT in 1944, a master’s degree in education from what is now Texas A&M at Kingsville in 1966, and a PhD in art from UNT in 1976.
“She was so outgoing that I think the people who knew her knew everything about her,” said Amelia Fales, her friend of 46 years (oral communication, March 2, 2010). “She put everything forward. You either liked her or you didn’t, and she didn’t care.”
During her time at UNT, Dr. Andrews became even more fascinated with peppers, and after her graduation she searched the globe for different varieties to grow in her garden. She also collected other objects during her extensive travels; she visited more than 100 countries and all 7 continents, including Antarctica. She even learned to scuba-dive so that she could hunt for shells in the waters surrounding the Philippines, the Australian Great Barrier Reef, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Canary Islands.
She ultimately amassed a shell collection of over 20,000 specimens and 900 different species. She donated many of the shells to Texas Memorial Museum in 2003. She also used some of her shell collection to create art by placing some in the doors to her dinning room: “The panes going into the dining room were of thick molded plastic with the shells (around 50) molded into the plastic as though the shells were floating in water. When the light hit those doors it was amazing,” said Fales. “She was so talented, and her talent was unending.”
Other items that Dr. Andrews collected included bones, skulls, and textiles, which she also incorporated into her art.
“Jean was an amazing hostess, and walking into her small, eclectically-decorated home was like being in a mini-museum,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. “There were dried plants, shells, skulls, bones, walking sticks, and other memorabilia she had collected over the years from all over the world. She was a dynamo and almost indefatigable, even in her later years!”...
She Went on to say, "Dr. Andrews suffered a number of hardships during her lifetime. She was predeceased by her daughter Jean (“Jinxy”) Andrews Wasson, who died at age 14 in a car accident.2,3 She also went blind in her right eye for many years before corrective surgery returned some of her sight.3 This no doubt made it difficult for her to continue her paintings during that time, but Dr. Andrews persevered. “She had a light and joy in her life, despite many hardships, and that made her a remarkable person to be around,” said Burckhardt.
Dr. Andrews served as vice-president of the Board of Trustees for the Useful Wild Plants of Texas (1994–1996) and was the first woman inducted into the Hall of Honor for the College of Natural Sciences at UT in 1991.4,5 She was also awarded the Distinguished Alumna award by both UNT (1991) and UT (1997).3,4
Dr. Andrews established 2 fellowships at UT, both of which enable professors to visit UT and share their expertise with students and the public. One of those endowments allows famous ethnobotanists to spend a week in Austin every April to lecture before students and faculty. Dr. Andrews is survived by her son Robert Wasson."
Dr. Andrews made strong contributions to many scientific disciplines, but none more than her contribution to a better understanding of The Domesticated Capsicum.