Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century


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By: Leslie Kemp Poole

“Gives long-overdue recognition to the women who shaped the state’s environmental movement and saved Florida’s water, land, and quality of life from worse destruction.”—Cynthia Barnett, author of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

“Highlights the overlooked role of women in Florida’s environmental leadership. This is an exciting, important book.”—Buddy MacKay, former governor of Florida

“A brilliant exposition of the varied types of talent it takes to fight the battles, wars, and votes which must be undertaken if even a fraction of Florida’s heritage is to be saved.”—Victoria Tschinkel, vice-chairperson, 1000 Friends of Florida

“Shows how passionate, strong-minded, independent women did what was necessary to change the hearts and minds of policymakers to keep our air and water healthy.”—Clay Henderson, former president, Florida Audubon Society

“Poole’s portraits of these indomitable women, many of them previously unknown, could well inspire the next generation of activists.”—Judith G. Poucher, author of State of Defiance: Challenging the Johns Committee’s Assault on Civil Liberties

Florida is renowned for its beautiful beaches, natural springs, and subtropical wilderness, but it is widely joked that the official bird should be the construction crane. Dredge-and-fill projects, air pollution, and pesticides spread so uncontrollably during the twentieth century that they sparked an environmental movement within the state, and those who led the fight were very often women.

Saving Florida reveals how women’s clubs prompted legislation to establish Florida’s first state park, which became the core of Everglades National Park, in 1916—before women even had the right to vote. It tells the story of Doris Leeper, who convinced her community and federal government to protect a 24-mile stretch of sandy beach that is now the breathtaking Canaveral National Seashore. It remembers Clara Dommerich, who summoned the “Who’s Who” of Central Florida to her living room for the first meeting of the Florida Audubon Society. And it celebrates the towering environmental legacy of the three “Marjories”: author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, scientist Marjorie Harris Carr, and journalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

These and many other women led the fight for unprecedented changes in how the Sunshine State reveres its unique natural resources. They set the foundation for this century’s environmental agenda, which came to include the idea of sustainable development. As a collective force, they forever altered how others saw women’s roles in society.