Women in Wilderness: Badass Women who Shaped Conservation History

Photo: © Jane Goodall Institute

It’s no coincidence that we use Mother Nature as the personification of the life force behind wilderness areas. It is the shared life-giving and nurturing characteristics in both nature and women, that make women’s roles in conservation so crucial and, so successful. In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018, we look back at some of the women who have made a significant mark in conservation history!

Rosalie Edge (1877–1962)

Photo: © Wikipedia

Famously: Pushed the conservation community to take stronger measures and protect a broader range of bird species.

Impact: Founded the world’s first preserve for birds of prey in 1934 called Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. Successfully lead grassroots campaigns and lobbied congress to create national parks.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890–1998)

© Wikimedia Commons

Famously: Defended the Florida Everglades from pollution and development.

Impact: Encouraged the public and the government to view the Everglades as a treasured river rather than a swamp.

Authored: Everglades: River of Grass

Mardie Murie (1902–2003)

Madie Murrie with her husband Olaus © Wikipedia

Famously: Became the first women to take the lead in American conservation. Recognised as the grandmother of conservation. Central contributor to establishing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Impact: A dedicated advocate for legislation protecting US wilderness including playing a role in the Wilderness Act of 1964. Worked on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act signed in 1980, defending 100 million acres of Alaska wilderness.

Authored: Two in the Far North a memoir.

Awards: Presidential Medal Freedom awarded by US President Bill Clinton.

Rachel Carson (1907–1964)

© Wikipedia

Famously: Worked to raise awareness and uncover the detrimental effects of pesticide on the environment, particularly birds.

Impact: Her work resulted in the banning of DDT and the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Authored: Silent Sprint (1962)

Awards: Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

Dian Fossey (1932- 1985)

Photo: © Robert I.M. Campbell CAMPBELL Star Tribune

Famously: Lived with mountain gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda

Impact: Studied the personalities, family relationships and societal structures of gorillas.

Notable: A tough anti-poaching and anti-illegal wildlife trade advocate, who was found murdered in 1985.

Foundations: Karisoke Research Centre for the study of Gorillas; and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a charitable organization dedicated to the protection of mountain Gorillas.

Authored: Gorillas in the Mist 1983

Daphne Sheldrick (Born 1934)

Photo: © David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Famously: The first person to raise a baby elephant orphan successfully in 1984.

Impact: Runs an elephant orphan rescue in Nairobi Kenya. To date, they have raised over 200 orphaned elephants.

Foundation: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in honour of her late husband, the famous naturalist and founding warden of Tsavo East National Park.

Authored: Love Life and Elephants

Jane Goodall (Born 1934)

Photo: © Jane Goodall Institutet

Famously: Lived with and studied Tanzanian Chimpanzee

Impact: Made significant discoveries in Chimp behaviour that has shaped science’s understanding of primates, including their complex social systems, ritualised behaviour, and communication methods.

Foundations: Gombe Stream Research Center in Gombe National Park, Tanzania; and the Jane Goodall Institute for Wild Life Research, Education, and Conservation.

Authored: (Biographies) Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011)

Photo: © Green Belt Movement

Famously: Fought for the Kenyan government to protect wilderness areas. Beaten and jailed on numerous occasions.

Impact: Started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, responsible for planting 51 million trees and empowering women to protect natural resources.

Authored: Autobiography Unbowed

Awards: In 2004 became the first African women to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mollie Beattie (1947–1996)

Photo: © Wikipedia

Famously: Became the first women to be appointed the director of US Fish and Wildlife Service. Responsible for reintroducing grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park.

Impact: Integral in landmark environmental laws such as the endangered species act and the clean water act creating fifteen new wildlife refuges in the US.