Great Floridians Film Series - Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Part 1

Uploaded by FloridaDeptOfState on 14.12.2010

"Well, in 1917, when we declared war,
I went down to get a story on the first woman to enlist in the
naval reserve. The Navy sent a ship up from Key West,
and they were enlisting women as well as men.
I went down, Father sent me down to get a
But I called him up pretty soon, I said
'Father, I got the story,
but the first woman to enlist in the navy was me!'
They certainly brainwashed me, first thing I knew, I was putting up my hand
and swearing to
protect and defend the United States of America from
all enemies whatsoever.
When I called up my father, he said
'Well, I have to admire your patriotism but that leaves us a little bit
Well, they didn't call me out for a while."
"The older she gets the tougher she gets.
Also more effective she gets because she can tell the truth
and has nothing to lose.
She treads around no issue."
"But she's very gentle too.
She is a kind person.
She puts up with no nonsense,
she's a thouroughly
woman of great influence."
"It's always a pleasure
to work with her. The energy in this
ninety-odd year old lady is extraordinary."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Before all else, she's a writer.
Above all else, she's an environmentalist.
Her life, as well as her books, are filled with a love of Florida,
and with a compelling plea to all to protect this delicate balance.
Her love for the state began in the early 1900s, when she arrived in Miami to begin
her writing career at her father's newspaper.
"When I first came in 1915,
there weren't 5,000 people in this city.
After the First World War, then it began to build up, and we had the big boom and all.
Well, I didn't think too much of the city,
I felt the country was simply amazing, I loved the whole Florida thing,
South Florida sort of thing.
I love the tropics, and the
light and the sun, and the openness of the landscape and
meeting of the sea and so on.
So that I was very happy
to continue making my home here."
Her most important literary work,
'Everglades: River of Grass,' displays both her mastery of her craft and her love for this
The opening words capture the reader;
'There are no other everglades in the world.
They are, they have always been one of the unique regions of the earth, never wholly known.
Nothing anywhere else is like them.
Their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon
Their racing free saltness and sweetness of their winds
under the dazzling blue heights of space.
They're also unique in the simplicity,
the diversity, the related harmony in forms of life they enclose.
The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of sawgrass and of water,
shining and moving below.
The grass and the water. That is
the central fact of
the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass.'
"I came to Florida and it was a new country.
Nobody had written very much about it when I came down in 1915, and I really discovered
the everglades, so I discovered a piece of geography for myself. To think, how lucky I
was to have found it."
The Everglades had long been thought of as a useless swamp,
and from the 1850s, there'd been massive projects to drain and develop it.
Her book, long before there was a powerful environmental movement in Florida,
helped us stop, and look,
and see the Everglades.
Not as a swamp,
but as a valuable river and the source of all south Florida's water supply.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas,
author, lecturer, journalist, environmentalist.
Herself, one of Florida's great natural resources.
She wrote the definitive work on
the Everglades and helped to unravel its mystery.
"Well, what I've done
is to be part of the work
to restore the Everglades
so it's been more than writing, it's been my life's work. I had no idea when I wrote 'The Everglades'
that in 40 years, I'd still be working on the Everglades.
Still, for
its restoration."
Marjory has written eight books,
many short stories and plays, most with Florida themes.
But with 'Everglades: River of Grass' came fame
and a focal point for her life's work.
"Of course, I was very fortunate,
because it, it was
an absolutely new field.
Nobody had ever written about the Everglades except for those very few pamphlets that I found.
Nobody knew anything about it.
And I was the one
who discovered,
will working with
Jerry Parker,
that it was a river!
I said to Jerry, 'what's a river anyway?' 'It's a body of freshwater,
moving in more in one direction than the other.'
And he had already
proved to me
that the Everglades were not swamps, they were running water.
And the water runs down from Lake Okeechobee,
often as much as four miles an hour, you know, running water.
So, there it was, a river.
So, I went back to him, and I said
'Do you think I could get away with calling it a river of grass because
wherever the fresh water was,
the sawgrass sprang up, and that's what the Everglades
is, this combination
sawgrass and water."
Preserving the Everglades has been Marjory's fight for more than 60 years and her father's
fight before her.
In the 40s, when she published her book,
people may have thought of her as an eccentric nature lady, but today
many of her ideas are public policy.
Marjory was born on April 7th, 1890 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Well, shortly after the panic of '93,
my father and mother went back east
to Tauton, Massachussetts, which is outside of Boston
to the southwest a little bit.
And my father came down to Florida then, they were separated
but not divorced.
So that from the time I was six years old I hadn't seen him."
In her early years, she busied herself with
books and devoured everything written by Dickens.
It was natural for an avid reader to develop a love for writing.
Even as a child she says she worked at writing, and always knew exactly what she wanted to do.
She wrote for the high school magazine,
and at Wellesley College she majored in english composition and worked on the college magazine.
Marjory feels that a women's interest in developing a career
was not the least extraordinary for her time.
"Well, my father came from a long line
of Quakers, and as far as he was concerned,
it didn't matter if I was a boy or a girl,
if I showed the ability, which he felt that I did.
I think he
really wished that I might go on to be the editor of the Herald."
She graduated from Wellesley in 1912, a teacher,
but teaching didn't really interest her.
Then, after her mother's death, when Marjory's brief marriage dissolved,
she decided to follow her father to Florida where he was co-founder and editor of the Miami Herald.
"In 1896,
my father left
Rhode Island, where we were.
and came to Orlando in Florida.
Studied assiduously and passed his
bar exams and became an attorney
in Orlando
and took a
flatbed-press for an old debt,
and brought into Miami and started the first morning paper, which was the News Record."
Her father, Frank B. Stoneman,
used his paper's editorial pages to wage an unsuccessful campaign against the railroad's
involvement in politics and against Governor Broward efforts to drain the Everglades.
But he was taking on the power structure
and as a result the paper nearly went bankrupt.
"But my father was a
historian and a scholar and
particularly a student of constitutional law and that sort of thing.
He knew a great deal about Florida, and Florida politics.
So I worked with him closely, and that was a
very, very fruitful and rewarding experience.
So many people
who were impressed
with my father's editorial page,
(the Herald was a small paper)
but father insisted that we had so many people
who came to Miami, were used to good papers, like the
New York Times and so on,
that the editorial page had to be the best possible
quality, and it always was."
Frank Stoneman got financial backing and reorganized the paper in 1910.
It became the Miami Herald.
On this small paper, half the size of this afternoon rival, Marjory started working in 1915,
as a reporter and society editor,
For Marjory, there were society teas to cover, interesting people to interview.
She was aware of Miami as two worlds
One, the stimulating company of well-educated
new residents and visitors,
and their enthusiasm for this tropical region kept her
constantly aware of her surroundings.
during this time she was particularly influenced by John C Gifford,
nationally-known forrester and ecologist; Charles Storey Simpson, a Florida naturalist;
and David Fairchild, a plant explorer, whose home was a meeting place for scientists.
s]She also reported on another world, the dismal
poverty, crime, and social injustice.
Her father served as judge of the police court, and as he saw the needs, he fought editorially
for public welfare programs.
No doubt Marjory inherited her father's crusading zeal, plus, she notes
Wellesley College, more than most colleges, developed in her graduates, a keen
sense of civic responsibility.
She crusaded for libraries, environmental causes, and public welfare programs. She organized a professional
women's chapter,
and joined Mrs. William Jennings-Bryant and other national figures in championing
Women's Suffrage.
"In the spring of 1916, we went to Tallahassee,
to try to argue the
House of Representatives
and the Senate,
to argue the State of Florida,
into ratifying
the Suffrage Amendment. That was up for ratification by the states.
And we had a meeting with the,
the Senate was going to ratify it anyway.
So we had a meeting with the House of Representatives. It was a room
bigger than this one,
with men sitting against the wall on two sides of it.
We were there with our best hats and all,
and they didn't do anything,
they didn't pay any attention to us. We made our best speeches and
you'd think we were talking to a blank wall. That is a far as we got, that was before reapportionment.
when the state was run from Tallahassee. We called them the wool-hat boys from
the red hills beyond the Suwannee,
they're the ones who ran the state.
So as a result of our efforts,
Florida was the last state of the Union to ratify
the Suffrage Amendment,
many years later after everybody else had."
Marjory worked for the paper for two years,
then she left to serve her country in World War One.
"I don't know what idea they had in enlisting me, because I wasn't the secretary
but I did get called out as a yeoman,
I had to go to work as a secretary.
And I wasn't very satisfactory as a secretary,
my commanding officer and I had a great many arguments about
how to write letters. Frankly, I thought I wrote,
I knew how to write better than he did, but he didn't agree with me, ho ho!
There was a great deal of contention going on,
they didn't know what to do with a woman who didn't obey orders very
well, they had
no brig, didn't know what to do with me.
So, after a year of feeling that I was definitely in the wrong place,
I put in for an honorable dishcharge, and it was unanimous, they were very glad
to get rid of me.
I really think I was the worst yeoman the Navy ever had, but I find myself
very proud of the idea that I did serve in the Navy at least for a year,
althought I'm sorry that I wasn't better.
I wanted to go overseas, that's where the action was."
Then she went to work for the American Red Cross,
assigned to the publicity department in Paris.
She covered the aftermath of the war,
and reported on the Red Cross's work with baby clinics and refugees in France, Italy,
and the Balkans,
and other human interest issues.