|Marjorie Stoneman Douglas|
It happened at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Few people outside Florida know anything about Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. They should.
She was born in Minneapolis on April 7, 1890 and died in 1998, 108 years old. She was a great writer who cared deeply about votes for women and the environment, especially her beloved Everglades and the river that runs through it.
She was a top student at Wellesley College and was the Class Orator, not the last Wellesley student to go on to great things after speaking to the Wellesley Commencement at graduation.
She began her postgraduate days with a short and unsuccessful marriage. She recovered by joining her father at the Miami Herald, working first as a society reporter, then an editorial writer, becoming increasingly engaged in her profession.
After that, she started writing articles on votes for women, civil rights and conservation issues. She won a wide readership and published hundreds of short stories. It was the era of The Masses and hard-hitting writing was in vogue. She was less of a feminist than an activist. She said: "I'd like to hear less talk about men and women and more talk about citizens."
She is best known for helping to preserve the Everglades against efforts to drain this swamp in favor of development, writing in 1947 the book The Everglades: River of Grass. The book had an impact similar to that of Rachel Carson's book in 1962 on the overuse of DDT. She was called "Grande Dame of the Everglades" and was pilloried by developers.
In his introduction to her 1987 autobiography, Voice of the River, John Rothchild describes her appearance in 1973 at a public meeting in mosquito-haunted 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. . . . She reminded us all of our responsibility to nature . . . 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.After several reprints, a revised edition of her book was published in 1987, the same year her biography appeared. Her awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When she died, the British newspaper The Independent summed up her life: "In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures."