Jeanne Russell Janish is best known as a botanical illustrator and the first woman to graduate from Stanford with a master’s in geology. Her illustrations are found in many books that have helped hikers and campers identify wild foliage.
Jeanne Russell was born on October 20, 1902 in Marshall, Iowa. Her early years were spent in St. Louis, where her father was a Presbyterian Minister. Later the family moved to Berkeley, California. Janish attended Vassar College, her mother’s alma mater, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a major in Latin and a minor in geology in 1924. The same year, she began to attend Stanford. In 1926, Janish became the first woman to graduate Stanford with a master of arts in geology.
Janish held a natural talent for drawing that was nurtured during her childhood and teen years by botanical illustrator and botanist Edith Clements and her husband Frederic E. Clements of the Carnegie Institution. Stanford paleontologist James Perrin Smith also noticed Janish’s creative abilities and encouraged her to study scientific illustration. Her career led her to illustrate approximately thirty-two major scientific and popular books, as well as many articles. Her artwork can be found not only in scientific publications, but also in field guide books for plants in the Mojave region.
In 1929, Janish left for China to work as a rug designer for her cousin at the Fette Rug Company in Beijing. During her five years there, Janish had many wonderful experiences, which are recorded in her diaries. She also met and married her lifelong companion, Carl R. Janish. In 1934, the couple returned to the United States due to the onset of war with Japan. Employment was scarce in the U.S. when they returned, so the Janishes operated Camp Wasibo in the Sierras for Campfire Girls. They remained in California for seven years where Jeanne taught at Stanford and did some freelance illustrating. After several moves around the country in the forties and early fifties, the couple settled in Carson City, Nevada. In 1954, they moved to Las Vegas where Carl worked as a contractor at the Nevada Test Site. While in Las Vegas, Janish pursued her career as an illustrator and began to focus on local botany.
Jeanne Russell Janish died in Las Vegas on February 4, 1998.
For further biographical information:
Jeanne Janish papers. Nevada Women’s Archives. Special Collections, UNLV. Collection number 95-031.
Photo courtesy of UNLV Special Collections. It may not be reproduced without the special permission of UNLV Special Collections.