MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS Biography - Famous Scientists


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Marjory Stoneman Douglas, born April 7, 1890 in Minneapolis, Minnesota,                     
graduated from Wellesley with straight A's with the elected honor of "Class                 
Orator." That title proved to be prophetic.                                                 
In 1915, following a brief and calamitous marriage, she arrived in Miami,                   
working for her father at the Miami Herald. She worked first as a society                   
reporter, then as an editorial page columnist, and later established herself as             
a writer of note. Here she took on the fight for feminism, racial justice, and             
conservation long before these causes became popular.                                       
She was ahead of her time in recognizing her need for independence and solitude,           
yet never considered herself entirely a feminist, saying: "I'd like to hear less           
talk about men and women and more talk about citizens."                                     
Her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, published in 1947 -- the year                     
Everglades National Park was established -- has become the definitive                       
description of the natural treasure she fought so hard to protect. After several           
reprints, the revised edition was published in 1987, to draw attention to the               
continuing threats -- unresolved -- to "her river."                                         
In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rose to the top of her list of               
enemies. In a major construction program, a complex system of canals, levees,               
dams, and pump stations was built to provide protection from seasonal flooding             
to former marsh land -- now being used for agriculture and real estate                     
development. Long before scientists became alarmed about the effects on the                 
natural ecosystems of south Florida, Mrs. Douglas was railing at officials for             
destroying wetlands, eliminating sheetflow of water, and upsetting the natural             
cycles upon which the entire system depends.                                               
Early on, she recognized that the Everglades was a system which depended not               
only on the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the park, but also upon the             
Kissimmee River which feeds the lake. To add a voting constituency to her                   
efforts, in 1970 she formed the Friends of the Everglades, and until recently               
remained active at the head of the organization.                                           
In his introduction to her autobiography Voice of the River (1987), John                   
Rothchild describes her appearance in 1973 at a public meeting in Everglades               
City: "Mrs. Douglas was half the size of her fellow speakers and she wore huge             
dark glasses, which along with the huge floppy hat made her look like Scarlet O'Hara       
as played by Igor Stravinsky. When she spoke, everybody stopped slapping [mosquitoes]       
and more or less came to order. She reminded us all of our responsibility to               
nature and I don't remember what else. Her voice had the sobering effect of a               
one-room schoolmarm's. The tone itself seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local             
stone crabbers, plus the developers, and the lawyers on both sides. I wonder if             
it didn't also intimidate the mosquitoes. . . . The request for a Corps of                 
Engineers permit was eventually turned down. This was no surprise to those of us           
who'd heard her speak."                                                                     
Died 14 May 1998