The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass.
– Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development.
As a young woman she movie to Miami to work for The Miami Herald. She became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. As a young woman Douglas was outspoken and politically conscious of many issues that included women’s suffrage and civil rights.
Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), considered to be the definitive description of the Everglades and the first to express the notion that it was not a swamp, but a vast, flowing river. Her novel galvanized people to protect the Everglades, it was a groundbreaking call to action that made both citizens and politicians take notice. Even today, it’s impact is still relevant as it is claimed to be a major reason Florida receives so many tourists.
She was called upon to take a central role in the protection of the Everglades when she was 79 years old. For the remaining 29 years of her life she was “a relentless reporter and fearless crusader” for the natural preservation and restoration of the nature of South Florida.
Douglas received countless awards during her career as an activist. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection named its headquarters in Tallahassee after her in 1980,but she is quoted as having said that she would rather have seen the Everglades restored than her name on a building.
The National Parks Conservation Association established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award in 1986, that “honor(s) individuals who often must go to great lengths to advocate and fight for the protection of the National Park System”.
In 1993, President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to a civilian. The citation for the medal read, “Marjory Stoneman Douglas personifies passionate commitment. Her crusade to preserve and restore the Everglades has enhanced our Nation’s respect for our precious environment, reminding all of us of nature’s delicate balance. Grateful Americans honor the ‘Grandmother of the Glades’ by following her splendid example in safeguarding America’s beauty and splendor for generations to come.
Douglas was inducted into the National Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame in 1999, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000. Though, true to her firery spirit she vocalized her confusion as to why there was a Women’s Hall of Fame and not a Citizens Hall of Fame.
Douglas lived until age 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration. Upon her death, an obituary in The Independent in London stated, “In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”
“It’s a little bit late in the day for men to object that women are getting outside their proper sphere.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas