March is Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to reflect on the great accomplishments of our female ancestors. In Florida, a state famous for its magnificent natural resources, residents can be proud to acknowledge three women who were pioneers in protecting and preserving our environment.
Marjorie Harris Carr was strongly committed to not only improving Florida’s environment, but to giving Floridians plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy it. She worked alongside her husband, the noted sea turtle expert Dr. Archie Carr, to protect Florida’s wildlife habitats. One of her efforts in the early 1960s led to the formation of Payne’s Prairie Wildlife Refuge, now known as Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Perhaps her most famous environmental victory came from her efforts to stop construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal and as a result, Florida’s premier greenway was created. The 110-mile corridor, which was renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway in 1998, traverses a wide variety of natural habitats and offers a variety of trails and recreation areas for residents and visitors to hike, ride and play.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was also committed to connecting people to the environment, which she accomplished through her gift for language. From her small cracker farmhouse in the tiny community of Cross Creek, she described Florida’s natural beauty and her rural lifestyle in her most famous book, The Yearling. Her little piece of paradise was named the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Today, visitors to the park are provided a glimpse into her life by the volunteers dressed in 1930s clothing, the kitchen filled with fresh herbs and garden vegetables, and the veranda where her typewriter sits.
Often referred to as ”Mother of the Everglades,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas was an activist, crusader for women’s rights, a journalist and playwright, the first woman in the U.S. Naval Reserves and an environmentalist who tirelessly fought for the causes she believed in. In her best-selling book, The Everglades, River of Grass, she wrote, “There are no other Everglades in the world. Nothing anywhere else is like them.” Through her writing and advocacy, she brought national attention to the importance of the vast Everglades ecosystem and the importance of improving the quality and quantity of water that flows through it. In 1968, at the age of 78, she formed Friends of the Everglades, spearheading legislation to protect it and the wildlife habitat it provided. In 2000, Florida partnered with the federal government to begin a restoration project to return a more natural flow of water to this ecosystem, restoring acres of natural habitat and providing water for the millions of residents who call south Florida home. Today, Florida remains committed to this partnership and the restoration of the River of Grass.
Throughout her 108 years, Douglas was paid tribute many times, including the Wellesley Award in 1977, the Medal of Freedom in 1993, as an inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1986 and with a Department of Environmental Protection building in Tallahassee renamed in her honor in 1981.
To learn more about Women’s History Month, visit www.womenshistorymonth.gov.