Lecturer remembers Everglades activist

South Florida’s natural sanctuary, the Everglades, has long been the subject of both praise and debate.

The striking beauty and diverse wildlife found in this fragile ecosystem has often been threatened by corporate and governmental interests.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas spent her lifetime working to protect the Everglades.

Co-founder of the advocacy group Friends of the Everglades and author of The Everglades: River of Grass, Douglas died in her sleep in her Coconut Grove home at the age of 108, becoming Florida’s longest-living activist. Cremated according to her wishes, her ashes were spread over the segment of the Everglades National Park that was named in her honor.

Now, bringing Douglas’ past back to life, historian Jack E. Davis will explore the lifetime achievements of the South Florida legend during a lecture held at the Grace Allen Room of the USF Library today at 4. Titled “The Ecology of the Everglades Activism: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Women’s Initiatives in Florida Conservation,” the presentation will be followed by a reception and book signing by Davis, a USF alumnus and award-winning scholar. Davis will also discuss the interesting link between womanhood and nature protection, to which Douglas once alluded: “It’s women’s business to be interested in the environment. It’s an extended form of housekeeping, isn’t it?”

Focusing on women’s rights and environmental issues, Douglas’ approach to activism won her much recognition. She received a medal of honor in 1997 from President Bill Clinton, who signed the $8 billion Everglades Restoration Act into law. Douglas was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000. As the daughter of Frank Stoneman, the founding editor of The Miami Herald, innovation and perseverance were well-encoded in her genes.

After moving to the Sunshine State from her native Minnesota in 1915, Douglas became a freelance writer for her father’s publication and focused on the Everglades, a place where she found a sacred beauty in what her adversaries called “a swampy wasteland.”

Not only did her prose raise interest in the forgotten ecosystem, but her news campaign was essential to pass groundbreaking environmental legislation.