Agnes Joaquim



Agnes Joaquim (Ashkhen Hovakimian) (b. 7 April 1854, Singapore–d. 2 July 1899, Singapore), a second-generation Singapore resident of Persian Armenian descent,1 is best known for successfully cross-breeding Vanda teres with Vanda hookeriana to create a new orchid known as Vanda Miss Joaquim (Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim).2 The orchid hybrid was named Singapore’s national flower in 1981. In 2015, the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations inducted into its Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame.3 The award cited her as the first woman in the world to breed a hybrid orchid.4

Horticultural legacy – Vanda Miss Joaquim
Like her mother, Urelia Zachariah, Joaquim was an avid gardener and horticulturalist who won numerous prizes at flower shows for cultivating various flowers, ferns, spices, fruits and vegetables. She successfully bred an orchid in the gardens of her family home around 1890. The record of the orchid, later named Vanda Miss Joaquim after its breeder, was first published in June 1893 in the horticultural journal, The Gardeners’ Chronicle.5 Vanda Miss Joaquim made its maiden public appearance in Singapore at the annual Flower Show in April 1899, and won Joaquim the first prize for rarest orchid.

Spearheading the development of Singapore’s cut-flower industry, Vanda Miss Joaquim became a major commercial success.7 The orchid was designated Singapore’s national flower in 1981.8

Controversy
There was a controversy about whether the Vanda Miss Joaquim was a product of nature or an artificial hybrid bred by Joaquim. In September 2016, the National Parks Board and the National Heritage Board amended their accounts of the discovery of the flower to credit Joaquim as the breeder of the national flower.9


Other interests
Besides her horticultural skills and interests, Joaquim was also an active member of the Armenian Church and a skilled embroiderer.10

Death
Joaquim died of cancer on 2 July 1899, at the age of 45, about three months after she received the prize for Vanda Miss Joaquim at the Flower Show. Her tombstone can be found within the grounds of the Armenian Church on Hill Street. It was originally located at the Bukit Timah cemetery.11 Her headstone bears the inscription, “Let her own works praise her”.12

Family
Joaquim was the eldest daughter and second child out of 11 children of Parsick Joaquim, an Armenian merchant and commercial agent. The family used to live at 30 Hill Street, but by 1861 had moved to Mount Narcis, the name of the family mansion that sat on Parsick Hill off Tanjong Pagar.13


Father 
Basil (Barsigh or Parsick) Joaquim (d. 17 May 1872, Singapore) was a merchant and commercial agent in the 1840s. He married Urelia on 17 February 1852. Believed to have originated from Madras, Parsick’s work as a commercial agent often took him to Calcutta, Batavia and Penang. A notable philanthropist, he acquired considerable property and investments, which enabled his family to tide over after his sudden death in 1872.14

Mother 
Urelia (Urughlu) Zachariah (b. 1828, Singapore–d. 29 April 1905) was a gardening enthusiast who won awards at annual flower shows during the 1880s and 1890s.15

Variant names
Armenian names are anglicised in various ways. The name Joaquim is sometimes spelt Hovakimian or Joakim,16 while Agnes might be spelt Ashkhen17 or Ashghen.18

The Anglicised surname Joaquim is pronounced with a “j” sound, as in “jo”.19

List of horticultural awards won at the annual Flower Show
1881

First prize for begonia (specimen)
Second prize for two verbenas20

1884

Second prize for mosses21

1886

First prize for the best six ferns
First prize for selaginellas
Second prize for the best six coleus
Second prize for the best six caladiums22

1887

First prize for selaginellas
First prize for roses (cut flowers)
Second prize for best collection of begonias
Second prize for coleus
Second prize for dahlias (cut flowers)23

1889

Second prize for selaginellas24

1891

First prize for roses (specimen)
First prize for bridal bouquet (white flowers)
First prize for hand bouquet
First prize for cucumbers
First prize for radishes
First prize for mangosteens
Second prize for six selaginellas
Second prize for french beans
Second prize for custard apples
Second prize for chikus25

1893

First prize for cucumbers
First prize for radishes
First prize for chillies
First prize for melons
First prize for pineapples
First prize for mangosteens
Second prize for French beans
Second prize for selaginellas
Second prize for hand bouquet26

1894

First prize for chrysanthemums (cut flowers)
First prize for bridal (white flowers)
First prize for cucumbers
First prize for brinjal
First prize for French beans
First prize for melons
First prize for mangosteens
First prize for soursops
First prize for ginger roots
Second prize for durians
Second prize for ixoras (cut flowers)
Second prize for collection of flowers arranged for effect
Second prize for hand bouquet
Second prize for custard apples27

1895

First prize for selaginellas
First prize for lilies
First prize for stephanotis
First prize for bridal wild flowers
First prize for limes
First prize for pomelow
First prize for pineapples
First prize for soursop 
Second prize for crotoas
Second prize for horas
Second prize for bouquet
Second prize for cucumber
Second prize for radishes
Second prize for melons
Second prize for oranges28

1897

First prize for six selaginellas
First prize for phlox
First prize for pumelows29

1898

First prize for orchids (cut flowers)
Second prize for three ixoras30

1899

First prize for the rarest orchid, Vanda Miss Joaquim
First special prize for hibiscus31



Authors

Michael Mukunthan & Akshata Patkar



References
1. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)

2. Hew, C. S., Yam, T. W., & Arditti, J. (2002). Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 584.4095957 HEW)
3. Lim, M. (2015, March 28). 11 inducted into S’pore Women’s Hall of Fame. The Straits Times, Home, p. B8. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2015, March 27). Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame: the inductees of 2015, p. 1. Retrieved 2017, March 8 from Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations website: http://www.scwo.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/MediaRelease-IWD2015-Final.pdf
5. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, pp. 145, 147, 220. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); Ridley, H. N. (1893, June 24). New or noteworthy plants [Ebook]. The Gardeners’ Chronicle8, 740. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://search.nlb.gov.sg/
6. The Flower Show. (1899, April 12). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

7. Johnson, H., & Wright, N. (2008). Vanda Miss Joaquim: Singapore’s national flower & the legacy of Agnes & Ridley. Singapore: Suntree Media, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 635.9344095957 JOH)
8. Ministry of Culture. (1981, April 15). Press announcement by the Minister for Culture Mr. S. Dhanabalan at the launching ceremony of the national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim held on 15 April 1981 at 3.00 pm at the Ministry of Culture Conference Room, p. 2. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
9. Zaccheus, M. (2016, September 7). Vanda Miss Joaquim’s namesake gets official credit as creator. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
10. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, pp. 145, 147, 220. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)

11. Khor, C. (1981, July 19). Her tombstone found – more light shed on Miss JoaquimNew Nation, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Herwin M. Nasir. (2003, March 20). Agnes Joaquim’s tombstone [Photograph] [Online]. Retrieved from PictureSG.  
13. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, pp. 218–219. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
14. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, pp. 218–219. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
15. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
16. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, p. 218. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
17. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
18. Teoh, E. S. (1998). A joy forever: Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore’s national flower. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 584.4095957 TEO) 
19. Hew, C. S., Yam, T. W., & Arditti, J. (2002). Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 210. (Call no.: RSING 584.4095957 HEW)
20. The Flower Show. (1881, June 9). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. The Flower Show. (1884, January 12). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. The Flower Show. (1886, June 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Singapore annual Flower Show. (1887, April 18). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. The Flower Show on Saturday night. (1889, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. The Flower Show. (1891, June 23). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. The Flower Show. (1893, August 29). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. The Flower Show. (1894, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. The Flower Show. (1895, July 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. The Flower Show. (1897, May 15). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. The Flower Show. (1898, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. The Flower Show. (1899, April 12). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Nature>>Plants
Plants
National symbols
Joaquim, Agnes, 1854-1899--Biography
Pioneers
Politics and Government>>National Symbols
Personalities>>Biographies>>Pioneers
Science and technology>>Botany>>Flowering plants
Vanda Miss Joaquim--Singapore--History