Everglades National Park
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, "Mother of the Everglades"
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a force to be reckoned with. Called the "mother of the Everglades," she was an environmentalist, activist, feminist and independent thinker longer than many of us have been around. She died in 1998 at 108 years old. Her name is synonymous with the Everglades for her tireless, ground-breaking efforts to protect this watery region—a region her adversaries considered a worthless swamp.
Douglas is perhaps most known for her best-selling book, The Everglades: River of Grass. First published in 1947, River of Grass awakened residents and visitors to the notion of the Everglades as a vast, flowing river. Her descriptive, fluid prose portrays the strange beauty of the region and diversity of its wildlife, recounts the history of the native peoples, explorers and conquerors who traveled here, explains its importance as the region's watershed and addresses modern civilization's impact on this fragile ecosystem.
Douglas lived in South Florida from 1915 until her death and, through the decades, wrote extensively about the region. Twenty years after publishing River of Grass, when she was 78, Douglas became absorbed in the movement to preserve the Everglades. She had already served on the committee to create Everglades National Park and later worked toward establishing Biscayne National Park, formed the Friends of the Everglades and spearheaded legislation to protect the parks and their wildlife. To defend this fragile eco-system, she often went head-to-head with government authorities with her candid, straightforward approach to dealing with conservation issues.
In her 1987 autobiography written with John Rothchild, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River, Douglas summarized the Everglades' role as the major watershed for South Florida:
"Much of the rainfall on which South Florida depends comes from evaporation in the Everglades. The Everglades evaporate, the moisture goes up into the clouds, the clouds are blown to the north, and the rain comes down over the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee, especially, is fed by these rains. When the lake gets filled, some of the excess drains down the Caloosahatchee River into the Gulf of Mexico, or through the St. Lucie River and into the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of the excess, the most useful part, spills over the southern rim of the lake into the great arc of the Everglades."
Douglas fused a fiery commitment to the Everglades with her renowned tell-it-like-it-is approach.
"Since 1972, I've been going around making speeches on the Everglades. No matter how poor my eyes are, I can still talk. I'll talk about the Everglades at the drop of a hat. Whoever wants me to talk, I'll come over and tell them about the necessity of preserving the Everglades," she revealed in her autobiography.
"Sometimes, I tell them more than they wanted to know."