Who Was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?
If you've been wondering why so many students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become such effective political activists, so quickly, it's probably because they got it directly from their school's namesake.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born on April 7, 1890, and died on May 14, 1998. Marjory was an American journalist, author, women's suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Her father owned the Miami Herald and she became a freelance writer there, in 1912, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influential work was her book, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947). This work redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp. Its impact has been compared to that of Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Spring (1962). In it she explained how the Everglades functioned and its vital importance to our entire ecological system.
As a young woman, she was outspoken and politically aware of the suffrage and civili right’s movements. She fought for women's suffrage, joined the Red Cross to take care of wounded soldiers in World War I, and then refugees in Paris after the Great War ended.
Marjory was the primary activist for the preservation of the Everglades. She was called upon to take a central role in the protection when she was 79 years old. For the remaining 29 years of her life she was "a relentless reporter and fearless crusader" for the natural preservation and restoration of South Florida. She fought Big Sugar on dumping toxic waste water into the Everglades. She fought the Army Corps of Engineers to block the straightening of the Kissimmee River, explaining how the wandering, winding river filtered water on its journey from Central Florida to the Everglades. She fought the South Florida Water Management District when they allowed water levels in the Everglades to rise dangerously high, killing off the native deer population and other species of wildlife. She was a fighter and an activist for protecting things valuable to our planet and its inhabitants. Her tireless efforts earned her several variations of the nickname "Grande Dame of the Everglades" as well as the hostility of agricultural and business interests looking to benefit from land development in Florida. She received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into several halls of fame.
Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, enabling her to advance her causes.
Douglas lived to 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration. Upon her death, an obituary in The Independent in London stated, "In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”
She would be proud of the students who are now standing up to fight for a cause in which they deeply believe. She would have been standing right with them, demanding action and action now. She would have carried those kids on her back to Tallahassee and Washington, DC to make sure those in power use that power for the greater good. It was in her own DNA, now transferred to these courageous students.