The month of March became Women’s History Month back in the 1980s, when President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week.
Even though the holiday became official in the United States in 1987, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 1911.
When the United Nations became an International Women’s Day sponsor in 1975, they stated that securing peace, social progress, the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women, and that acknowledging their contributions adds to the strengthening of international peace and security.
It took the U.S. another 12 years to finally acknowledge women’s contributions to history, culture and society, as well as their economic, political and social achievements.
Throughout the years, and most commonly during the month of March, we have been given the opportunity to learn more about some of the most amazing women in history, including Georgia O’Keefe, who coincidentally left this world on March 6, 1986; Janet Reno, the first woman to be U.S. Attorney General on March 11, 1993; Gloria Steinem, who was born on March 25,1935, and became a leader of “second wave” feminism and remains one today; Nancy Pelosi, who was born on March 26, 1940, and became the first and so far only female U.S. speaker of the House in 2007, the list goes on and on.
Among these astounding and influential women, we can also find proud members of the LGBT community such as Ellen DeGeneres, Angela Davis, Laurel Hester, and Rachel Maddow, to name a few.
One that is important to mention, especially after President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a sweeping executive order Tuesday at the Environmental Protection Agency, is Rachel Carson.
Carson was a marine biologist, environmentalist and writer who sparked the environmental movement with her stark revelations about the damage being caused by fertilizers and pesticides. Her work was the basis for the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other similar government organizations around the world.
According to various sources, Carson began a life-long intimate relationship with Dorothy Freeman in 1953. Although Freeman was married at the time, they both admitted to have had a special connection with each other, one that lasted until Carson’s death in 1964.
Rumor has it that Carson chose to destroy all of their personal correspondence just prior to her death to avoid publicity on their relationship. In 1994, however, Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964 – The Story of a Remarkable Friendship was published.
An Amazon reviewer wrote, “Even with everything that goes on within these letters, what is paramount is her love for Dorothy. Few of Dorothy’s letters were saved, but the few that were included in the book show why she and Rachel were such good friends. These letters bring to life many emotions: fear, grief, euphoria, anticipation, dread, anger, confusion, apprehension, appreciation and love.”
A different reader added, “A wonderful tender sensitive correspondence between two women, one of them the great Rachel Carson. To experience her private spontaneous writing – what a treat! But also the other woman – so much sensibility and compassion and love. So these are really love letters between two women although they took great care to not be defined as lesbian – it was a different time then.”
Throughout her life, Carson battled her critics, who often labeled her as hysterical and unscientific. However, she always managed to prove them wrong with her approach, which was based on a stubborn and remorseless presentation of scientific facts.
Unfortunately, Rachel Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer and lost her most important battle on April 14, 1964. She is remembered as an early environmental activist who worked to preserve the world for future generations.
Here are some of Rachel Carson’s most important contributions to the world:
1) At age 11, she won her first prize for a story published in St. Nicholas Magazine.
2) In 1935, she was hired by Elmer Higgins at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in Washington, D.C. to write 52 short radio programs on marine life – Romance Under the Waters.
3) The following year, she began freelancing for various publications including The Baltimore Sun.
4) Carson’s article Undersea was published in the Atlantic Monthly on September 1937.
5) By 1941, she was an official staff Aquatic Biologist at Interior under the leadership of Secretary Harold L. Ickes.
6) Carson was a born ecologist before the science was defined. Her first book, Under the Sea-Wind (1941), was a fascinating tale of the interaction of a sea bird, a fish and an eel sharing life in the open seas.
7) In July 1944, Carson reached out to Reader’s Digest with the hopes of publishing an article on DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), the publication turned it down, calling it “unpleasant.”
8) Her article, The Bird of an Island, was published in The Yale Review in September 1950.
9) In 1951, she published her second book, The Sea Around Us, a short biography of the sea that became and international best-seller, and raised the consciousness of a generation.
10) In 1953, RKO Studios released a film version of The Sea Around Us, which received an Academy Award.
11) Her first and only academic paper, The Edge of the Sea, was featured on the American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in December 1953.
12) Her research lead her to the publication of her third book, The Edge of the Sea (1955), a physical explanation of life on the ecosystems of the eastern coast from Maine to Florida.
13) In 1956, Woman’s Home Companion featured her article Help Your Child to Wonder.
14) Her book Silent Spring (1962) warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides such as DDT, and questioned the scope and direction of modern science, initiated the contemporary environmental movement. With this manuscript, she also questioned government and private science’s assumption that human domination of nature was the correct course for the future.
15) Carson’s warnings on the misuse of pesticides mentioned in President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) issues report The Uses of Pesticides on May 15, 1962. During the report’s press conference, President John F. Kennedy cited Carson’s book.
16) On April 3, 1963, CBS Reports with Eric Sevareid aired The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson on national television, a triumph for Carson over her critics.
17) On June 4, 1963, Carson testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations, and called for a limit to the number of pesticides in use.
18) Some of her most relevant work includes the exposition of climate change, rising sea levels, melting Artic glaciers, collapsing bird and animal populations, and crumbling geological faults.