Women and the Environment
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Writer, scientist, and ecologist, Rachel Carson, is often credited as the mother of the modern environmental movement. After receiving a biology degree from the Pennsylvania College for women and a master’s degree in Zoology from Johns Hopkins, she worked as a marine scientist for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, where she began writing on sea life. A prolific writer, she published Under the Sea-Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1952), The Edge of the Sea (1955), and Silent Spring (1962). Silent Spring alerted the public to the dangers of the continued and widespread use of pesticides, which began in earnest after World War II. Carson’s controversial stance sparked outrage by the chemical industry which sought to silence her findings and she was called upon to testify before Congress in 1963.
Shirley Briggs (1918-2004)
Shirley Briggs graduated from the University of Iowa with a fine arts degree, a student of primitivist painter, Grant Woods. During WWII, Briggs found a job as a mechanical arts illustrator for the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Baltimore, illustrating manuals for the military. After the war, Briggs was hired as an illustrator with the newly created U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that is where she met Rachel Carson, who also worked for the Wildlife Service as a writer. They collaborated on a number of projects, and became friends. Later, Briggs became the editor of the Audubon Naturalist Society publication, The Wood Thrush and did much of the writing, art and photography. Briggs and Carson went on many outings together, including a memorable trip to Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania to see the hawks migrate and at which Briggs took many of the best informal photographs of Carson that exist today. She also illustrated cartoons of Carson based on their letters to each other. Following Carson’s death in 1964, Briggs became the Executive Director of the Rachel Carson Council. The organization was dedicated to continuing Carson’s work on the dangers of environmental pollution and it remains a clearing house of pesticide education and information.
Mary Jobe Akeley (1876-1966)
Mary Jobe Akeley was an explorer and author. She attended Bryn Mawr College, and received her master’s degree in English from Columbia University. She joined several expeditions to Canada and Africa, and was noted for her expedition to the northern Canadian Rockies. She also worked as a special advisor at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1916 she founded Camp Mystic on her property in Connecticut and developed an outdoor camp to strengthen the minds and bodies of girls and young women through swimming, learning life-saving skills, riding, arts and crafts, nature study, and dancing. Akeley was dedicated to the mission of land conservation, and wrote several articles educating the American public about the vanishing wildlife of Africa and promoting the establishment of national parks to protect habitats.