Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment

Synopsis

In Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, Robert K. Musil redefines the achievements and legacy of environmental pioneer and scientist Rachel Carson, linking her work to a wide network of American women activists and writers and introducing her to a new, contemporary audience. Rachel Carson was the first American to combine two longstanding, but separate strands of American environmentalism--the love of nature and a concern for human health. Widely known for her 1962 best-seller, Silent Spring, Carson is today often perceived as a solitary "great woman," whose work single-handedly launched a modern environmental movement. But as Musil demonstrates, Carson's life's work drew upon and was supported by already existing movements, many led by women, in conservation and public health.

On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, this book helps underscore Carson's enduring environmental legacy and brings to life the achievements of women writers and advocates, such as Ellen Swallow Richards, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Terry Tempest Williams, Sandra Steingraber, Devra Davis, and Theo Colborn, all of whom overcame obstacles to build and lead the modern American environmental movement.

Excerpt

I hope you enjoy reading Rachel Carson and Her Sisters as much as I did writing it. Like many Americans, I had heard of Rachel Carson and knew in my youth, vaguely, that her book Silent Spring (1962) had something to do with saving birds and reducing the use of pesticides. Then, at the time of her one-hundredth birthday, in 2007, I became intrigued that talk show hosts like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were launching fiery, fresh attacks on her more than forty years after she had died of breast cancer on April 14, 1964. I wanted to know more about the roots of such venom. I opened a book here, a website there. I read Linda Lear’s wonderful biography, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. Then I actually read Silent Spring, cover to cover. One book led on to another. Before long, I realized that there had been other Rachel Carsons long before she was born, and that many women have built on her legacy since her untimely death. These extraordinary women have also been wonderful scientists, popular writers for large audiences, and ardent advocates for the environment and human health. They, too, have faced vicious attacks from industry and its allies in the establishment. They, too, faced bias because they were women.

But for more than a century and a half, they have persevered against incredible odds, created mutual support networks, and slowly built an environmental movement strong enough to draw opposition from those who profit from pollution. Along the way they wrote marvelous books that touched millions of Americans even as they peered into microscopes or through binoculars and passed around petitions for the policymakers of the day. And I learned to admire, even catch my breath in awe at the courage of these women who have shaped how we know and love the American environment.

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