If you were unaware, March is Women’s History Month and on March 8th it is International Women’s Day. I was not always a feminist, mainly because I didn’t know what it meant, but thanks to my education, I have learned that it is simply the idea that there should be equality between the sexes. It is such a straight-forward thing, it should be basic human rights, and yet it isn’t. Crazy right? Since I am so passionate about equality I thought it only seemed right that I dedicated an entire month to women in history. Some women you may know of, some you may not – they are the real reason I am making these posts. So many women are forgotten or ignored throughout history. Women have done some awesome things that I was shocked to hear about while doing my research because I didn’t know about them in the first place. For most of my schooling, I didn’t hear about these incredible women, and now you and I both get to know a little about some of them.
Now, not only am I passionate about feminism and equality, but I am also passionate about the environment, hence this post is primarily about female environmental activists. First up, one you most likely know, Doctor Jane Goodall (who I also found out was a Dame). In 1960, she went to Tanzania to study chimpanzees, the closest living evolutionary relatives to humans. Through her studies, she has been able to show why chimpanzees are in need of help to prevent them from going extinct. On top of that, she has also worked to make species conservation a relationship between people and the environment. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 which supports Gombe, a national park in Tanzania, in helping their protection of the chimpanzees. She has done a lot more in getting communities involved in efforts to stop chimpanzee endangerment as well as deforestation including co-founding Roots & Shoots. She has done so much in conservation efforts and a lot of people know about her and have a general idea of the work that she does, but not to the extent that most people should. For example, I never learned about her in school, I heard of her but never learned. It wasn’t until last semester when I took a conservation biology course that I only got a glimpse of her work. Unfortunately, I also missed the opportunity to see her talk at my university but I’m sure that with all of her traveling, I may get another chance.
When trying to find women in science that I had never learned about, I came across Joy Adamson. Part of the reason, but not a very good one, is that she is from Austria-Hungary. She has written many books but is most known for her conservation efforts and Elsa the lioness. Elsa was an orphaned lion cub after Joy’s husband, George, killed its mother in self-defense in 1956. He didn’t realize that she charged at him because she was protecting her cubs in a nearby area. Of the three cubs, the two bigger ones were sent to a zoo and the smallest, Elsa, was raised by Joy and George. Elsa was released into the wild after they taught her how to survive on her own making her the first lioness successfully released into the wild and is the first to lion released to have a litter of cubs. In early 1961, Elsa died of disease from a tick bite and her cubs were sent to a reservation because of the mayhem they were causing. Throughout the raising of Elsa and for part of their time observing her in the wild, Joy and George kept notes and journals of their daily observations which Joy used to publish Born Free, a book about the experience. After her experience and success, she spent the rest of her life raising money for and giving speeches about wildlife and conservation efforts.
Lastly, The one woman I actually learned about throughout my education, Rachel Carson. Most people, when I mention her, don’t know who she is by name but they usually know who she is when I say she is basically the women who told the world DDT was bad and it’s killing the Bald Eagles. Throughout her career she worked at Wood’s Hole, the US Bureau of Fisheries, the Baltimore Sun, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and a lot more. Also, she has written a whole bunch of pamphlets and books, most notably, Silent Spring. Silent Spring is about her discoveries of the longterm effects of DDT, a widely used pesticide, and how with the increase in pesticides there was a decrease in birds in the spring. DDT, as it spread through trophic levels, would gradually increase in concentration and was found to be very high in birds, specifically Bald Eagles. The high levels of this pesticide caused eggshells to be extremely frail so when the female sat on her eggs, she accidentally killed her offspring. Carson got a lot of backlash from major chemical companies which she courageously spoke out against and has since changed the use of chemicals (primarily in the US). Without her fighting for a change in pesticides, there would be a whole lot more pollution today and not nearly as many animals as we see today. And it’s thanks to her that there are still efforts being made to change the way we grow crops and care for the environment.
These women have done incredible work and this post doesn’t do any of them justice. They have all made efforts in being activist for animals and the environment, which far too many people don’t care enough about, and are some inspiring women to me. I started out as a marine biology major, like Rachel Carson, but have since switched to conservation biology. Although I still am very fascinated with the ocean and everything that calls the ocean home, I know that the world as a whole is something that needs protecting, and these three women alone show that. There are so many more women that I could have included but this is a blog and not my own book about every woman in scientific history. I hope that these women not only inspire you to be more conscious about your carbon foot and handprint but to also inspire you to look for more women in scientific history and see what they’ve accomplished. Who knows, maybe they could be your inspiration, too.