Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Writer
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas 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. Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, Douglas became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1998
    Age 107
    Marjory Stoneman Douglas died at the age of 108 on May 14, 1998.
    More Details Hide Details John Rothchild, who helped write her autobiography, said that her death was the only thing that could "shut her up" but added, "The silence is terrible." Carl Hiaasen eulogized her in The Miami Herald, writing that The Everglades: River of Grass was "monumental", and praised her passion and her resolve; even when politicians finally found value in the Everglades and visited her for a photo opportunity, she still provoked them to do more and do it faster.
  • 1997
    Age 106
    The Christian Science Monitor wrote of it in 1997, "Today her book is not only a classic of environmental literature, it also reads like a blueprint for what conservationists are hailing as the most extensive environmental restoration project ever undertaken anywhere in the world".
    More Details Hide Details The downside to the book's impact, according to one writer addressing restoration of the Everglades, is that her metaphor is so prevailingly dominant that it is inaccurate in describing the complex web of ecosystems within the Everglades: "River of Grass" describes one. David McCally wrote that despite Douglas' "appreciation of the complexity of the environmental system" she described, popular conception of the Everglades shared by people who have not read the book overshadows her detailed explanations.
  • 1995
    Age 104
    She wrote all of her major books and stories in the cottage, and the City of Miami designated it an historic site in 1995, not only for its famous owner but also for its unique Masonry Vernacular architecture.
    More Details Hide Details After Douglas' death, Friends of the Everglades proposed making the house part of an education center about Douglas and her life, but neighbors protested, citing issues with parking, traffic, and an influx of visitors to the quiet neighborhood. The house, which had an exterior floodwater line from the 1926 Miami Hurricane and some damage from an infestation of bees, had fallen further into disrepair. For a while, the idea of moving the house to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, which Douglas helped to develop and where there is a life size bronze statue to commemorate her efforts, was considered. The State of Florida owns Douglas' house and in April 2007 placed it in the care of the Florida Park Service, a division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Restoration of the floors and counters took place in the following months. Water service was reconnected to the house and the electrical system was updated for safety purposes. All work was approved by the Department of Historic Resources. A park ranger was placed as a resident in the Douglas house to help maintain the structure and property.
  • 1993
    Age 102
    In 1993, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to a civilian.
    More Details Hide Details 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 donated her medal to Wellesley College. Most of the others she received she stored on the floor of her home. Douglas was inducted into the National Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame in 1999, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2000. John Rothchild declared her a feminist before the word existed, but not entirely. Upon hearing that she was to be inducted, she questioned, "Why should they have a Women's Hall of Fame, as I heard they wanted to put me in the other day? Why not a Citizen's Hall of Fame?" Douglas was included in a tribute to pioneering women when television character Lisa Simpson made a papier-mâché bust of her with Georgia O'Keeffe and Susan B. Anthony in an early episode of The Simpsons.
  • 1992
    Age 101
    She told Klinkenberg in 1992, frankly, that she had not had sex since her divorce, saying "I wasn't a wild woman".
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  • 1991
    Age 100
    Despite blindness and diminished hearing, Douglas continued to be active into her second century, and was honored with a visit from Queen Elizabeth II, to whom Douglas gave a signed copy of The Everglades: River of Grass in 1991.
    More Details Hide Details Instead of gifts and celebrations, Douglas asked that trees be planted on her birthday, resulting in over 100,000 planted trees across the state and a bald cypress on the lawn of the governor's mansion. The South Florida Water Management District began removing exotic plants that had taken hold in the Everglades when Douglas turned 102.
  • 1986
    Age 95
    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".
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  • 1985
    Age 94
    She wrote to Governor Bob Graham in 1985 to encourage him to assess the conditions the migrant workers endured.
    More Details Hide Details The same year, Douglas approached the Dade County School Board and insisted that the Biscayne Nature Center, which had been housed in hot dog stands, needed a building of its own. The center received a portable building until 1991 when the Florida Department of Education endowed $1.8 million for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park. Douglas co-founded the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Libraries with her longtime friend Helen Muir, and served as its first president. Although Douglas grew up in an Episcopalian household, she described herself as agnostic throughout her life, and forbade any religious ceremony at her memorial. Douglas tied her agnosticism to her unanswered prayers when her mother was dying. However, she credited the motivation for her support of women's suffrage to her Quaker paternal grandparents whose dedication to the abolition of slavery she admired, and proudly claimed Levi Coffin, an organizer of the Underground Railroad, was her great-great-uncle. She wrote that his wife was a friend of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and had provided Stowe with the story of Eliza in Uncle Tom's Cabin fleeing slavery because Douglas' great-great-aunt took care of Eliza and her infant after their escape. Frank Stoneman grew up in a Quaker colony, and Douglas maintained he kept touches of his upbringing throughout his life, even after converting to Episcopalianism. Writer Jack Davis and neighbor Helen Muir suggest this Quaker influence was behind Douglas' use of "Friends" in naming the organizations Friends of the Everglades and Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Libraries.
  • 1983
    Age 92
    At the hearing in 1983, she was booed, jeered, and shouted at by the audience of residents. "Can't you boo any louder than that?" she chided, eventually making them laugh. "Look.
    More Details Hide Details I'm an old lady. I've been here since eight o'clock. It's now eleven. I've got all night, and I'm used to the heat," she told them. Later, she wrote, "They're all good souls—they just shouldn't be out there." Dade County commissioners eventually decided not to drain. Florida Governor Lawton Chiles explained her impact, saying, "Marjory was the first voice to really wake a lot of us up to what we were doing to our quality of life. She was not just a pioneer of the environmental movement, she was a prophet, calling out to us to save the environment for our children and our grandchildren." Douglas also served as a charter member of the first American Civil Liberties Union chapter organized in the South in the 1950s. She lent her support to the Equal Rights Amendment, speaking to the legislature in Tallahassee urging them to ratify it. In the 1980s Douglas lent her support to the Florida Rural Legal Services, a group that worked to protect migrant farm workers who were centered on Belle Glade, and who were primarily employed by the sugarcane industry.
  • 1973
    Age 82
    In 1973, Douglas attended a meeting addressing conservation of the Everglades in Everglades City, and was observed by John Rothchild: 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 Scarlett O'Hara as played by Igor Stravinsky.
    More Details Hide Details When she spoke, everybody stopped slapping mosquitoes and more or less came to order. She reminded us all of our responsibility to nature and I don't remember what else. 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. Douglas was not well received by some audiences. She opposed the drainage of a suburb in Dade County named East Everglades. After the county approved building permits in the Everglades, the land flooded as it had for centuries. When homeowners demanded the Army Corps of Engineers drain their neighborhoods, she was the only opposing voice.
  • 1969
    Age 78
    Encouraged to get involved by the leaders of environmental groups, in 1969—at the age of 79—Douglas founded Friends of the Everglades to protest the construction of a jetport in the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades.
    More Details Hide Details She justified her involvement saying, "It is a woman's business to be interested in the environment. It's an extended form of housekeeping." She toured the state giving "hundreds of ringing denunciations" of the airport project, and increased membership of Friends of the Everglades to 3,000 within three years. She ran the public information operation full-time from her home and encountered hostility from the jetport's developers and backers, who called her a "damn butterfly chaser". President Richard Nixon, however, scrapped funding for the project due to the efforts of many Everglades watchdog groups. Douglas continued her activism and focused her efforts on restoring the Everglades after declaring that "Conservation is now a dead word... You can't conserve what you haven't got." Her criticism was directed at two entities she considered were doing the most damage to the Everglades. A coalition of sugarcane growers, named Big Sugar, she accused of polluting Lake Okeechobee by pumping water tainted with chemicals, human waste, and garbage back into the lake, which served as the fresh water source for the Miami metropolitan area. She compared Florida sugarcane agriculture to sugarcane grown in the West Indies, which, she claimed, was more environmentally sound, had a longer harvest cycle less harmful to soil nutrients, and was less expensive for consumers due to the higher sugar content.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1948
    Age 57
    In 1948 Douglas served on the Coconut Grove Slum Clearance Committee, with a friend of hers named Elizabeth Virrick, who was horrified to learn that no running water or sewers were connected to the racially segregated part of Coconut Grove.
    More Details Hide Details They helped pass a law requiring all homes in Miami to have toilets and bathtubs. In the two years it took them to get the referendum passed, they worked to set up a loan operation for the black residents of Coconut Grove, who borrowed the money interest-free to pay for the plumbing work. Douglas noted that all of the money loaned was repaid. Douglas became involved in the Everglades in the 1920s, when she joined the board of the Everglades Tropical National Park Committee, a group led by Ernest F. Coe and dedicated to the idea of making a national park in the Everglades. By the 1960s, the Everglades were in imminent danger of disappearing forever because of gross mismanagement in the name of progress and real estate and agricultural development.
  • 1942
    Age 51
    Douglas served as the book review editor of The Miami Herald from 1942 to 1949, and as editor for the University of Miami Press from 1960 to 1963.
    More Details Hide Details She released her first novel, entitled Road to the Sun, in 1952. She wrote four novels, and several non-fiction books on regional topics including Florida birdwatching and David Fairchild, the entomologist turned biologist who imagined a botanical park in Miami. Her autobiography entitled Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River was written with John Rothchild in 1987. She had been working on a book about W. H. Hudson for years, traveling to Argentina and England several times.
  • 1941
    Age 50
    Douglas wrote the foreword to the Work Projects Administration's guide to Miami and environs, published in 1941 as part of the Federal Writers' Project's American Guide Series.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1930
    Age 39
    The people and animals of the Everglades served as subjects for some of her earliest writings. "Plumes", originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1930, was based on the murder of Guy Bradley, an Audubon Society game warden, by poachers. "Wings" was a nonfiction story, also first appearing in the Post in 1931, that addressed the slaughter of Everglades wading birds for their feathers.
    More Details Hide Details Her story "Peculiar Treasure of a King" was a second-place finalist in the O. Henry Award competition in 1928. During the 1930s, Douglas was commissioned to write a pamphlet supporting a botanical garden called "An argument for the establishment of a tropical botanical garden in South Florida." Its success caused her to be in demand at garden clubs where she delivered speeches throughout the area, then to serve on the board to support the Fairchild Garden. She called the garden "one of the greatest achievements for the entire area". Douglas became involved with the Miami Theater, and wrote some one-act plays that were fashionable in the 1930s. One, entitled "The Gallows Gate", was about an argument between a mother and father regarding the character of their son who is sentenced to hang. She got the idea from her father, who had witnessed hangings when he lived in the West and was unnerved by the creaking sound of the rope bearing the weight of the hanging body. The play won a state competition, and eventually $500 in a national competition after it was written into three acts. With William W. Muir, husband of reporter Helen Muir, she authored a play called "Storm Warnings" loosely based on the life of mobster Al Capone. Some of Capone’s henchmen showed up at the theater, “adding an extra tingle for the audience that night”, though no actual problems arose.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1920
    Age 29
    From 1920 to 1990, Douglas published 109 fiction articles and stories.
    More Details Hide Details One of her first stories was sold to the pulp fiction magazine Black Mask for $600 (equivalent to $ in). Forty of her stories were published in The Saturday Evening Post; one titled "Story of a Homely Woman" was reprinted in 1937 in the Post's best short stories compilation. Recurring motifs in her fiction were their settings in South Florida, the Caribbean, or Europe during World War I. Her protagonists were often independent, quirky women or youthful underdogs who encountered social or natural injustices.
  • 1916
    Age 25
    Douglas was given an assignment in 1916 to write a story on the first woman to join the US Naval Reserve from Miami.
    More Details Hide Details When the woman did not show up for the interview, Douglas found herself joining the Navy as a Yeoman (F) first class. It did not suit her; she disliked rising early and her superiors did not appreciate her correcting their grammar as a typist, so she requested a discharge and joined the American Red Cross, where she was stationed in Paris. She witnessed the tumultuous celebrations on the Rue de Rivoli when the Armistice was signed, and she cared for war refugees; seeing them displaced and in a state of shock, she wrote, "helped me understand the plight of refugees in Miami sixty years later". Following the war, Douglas took on duties as assistant editor at The Miami Herald. She gained some renown through her daily column entitled "The Galley", and had enough influence through the newspaper that she became somewhat of a local celebrity. She amassed a devoted readership and attempted to begin each column with a poem. "The Galley" was topical and went in any direction Douglas chose. She promoted responsible urban planning when Miami saw a population boom of 100,000 people in a decade. She wrote supporting women's suffrage, civil rights, and better sanitation while opposing Prohibition and foreign trade tariffs.
  • 1915
    Age 24
    She joined the staff of the newspaper in 1915, originally as a society columnist writing about tea parties and society events, but news was so slow she later admitted to making up some of her stories: "Somebody would say, 'Who's that Mrs. T.Y. Washrag you've got in your column?' And I would say, 'Oh, you know, I don't think she's been here very long'".
    More Details Hide Details When her father went on vacation less than a year after her appearance in Miami, he left her the responsibility of the editorial page. She developed a rivalry with an editor at The Miami Metropolis whose greater familiarity with the history of Miami gave her cause to make fun of Douglas in writing. Her father scolded her to check her facts better.
    In the fall of 1915, Marjory Stoneman Douglas left New England to be reunited with her father, whom she had not seen since her parents' separation when she was six years old.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly before that time, her father had remarried Lillius ("Lilla") Eleanor Shine, whose great-great grandfather was Thomas Jefferson. (Her grandfather was Francis W. Eppes.) Marjory later wrote that Lilla Shine "remained my first and best friend all my life in Florida." Douglas arrived in South Florida when fewer than 5,000 people were recorded on the census in Miami and it was "no more than a glorified railroad terminal". Her father, Frank Stoneman, was the first publisher of the paper that later became The Miami Herald. Stoneman passionately opposed the governor of Florida, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, and his attempts to drain the Everglades. He infuriated Broward so much that when Stoneman won an election for circuit judge, Governor Broward refused to validate the election, so Stoneman was referred to as "Judge" for the rest of his life without performing the duties of one.
  • 1914
    Age 23
    After drifting with college friends through a few jobs for which she did not feel she was well-suited, Marjory Stoneman met Kenneth Douglas in 1914.
    More Details Hide Details She was so impressed with his manners and surprised at the attention he showed her that she married him within three months. He portrayed himself as a newspaper editor, and was 30 years her senior, but the marriage quickly failed when it became apparent he was a con artist. The true extent of his duplicity Marjory did not entirely reveal, despite her honesty in all other manners. Marjory may have unwittingly married Douglas while he was already married to another woman. While he spent six months in jail for passing a bad check, she remained faithful to him. However, his scheme to scam her absent father out of money worked in Marjory's favor when it attracted Frank Stoneman's attention. Marjory's uncle persuaded her to move to Miami and for the marriage to end.
  • 1912
    Age 21
    She attended Wellesley College, graduating with a BA in English in 1912.
    More Details Hide Details She found particular gifts in a class on elocution, and joined the first suffrage club with six of her classmates. She was elected as "Class Orator" at Wellesley, but was unable to fulfill the office since she was already involved in other activities. During her senior year while visiting home, her mother showed her a lump on her breast. Marjory arranged the surgery to have it removed. After the graduation ceremony, her aunt informed her it had metastasized, and within months her mother was dead. The family left making the funeral arrangements up to Marjory.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1908
    Age 17
    Marjory left for college in 1908, despite having grave misgivings about her mother's mental state.
    More Details Hide Details Her aunt and grandmother shared her concerns, but recognized that she needed to leave in order to begin her own life. She was a good student without having to study too much.
  • 1907
    Age 16
    In 1907, she was awarded a prize from the Boston Herald for a story titled "An Early Morning Paddle", about a boy who watches a sunrise from a canoe.
    More Details Hide Details However, as her mother's mental health deteriorated, Marjory took on more responsibilities, eventually managing some of the family finances and gaining a maturity imposed upon her by circumstance.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1890
    Born
    Born on April 7, 1890.
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