Women's History History - Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson was born on a small family farm near Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1907. As a child she spent a great deal of her time exploring the forests and streams around her farm, developing a great passion for nature. She especially enjoyed the writings of Beatrix Potter, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson. The natural world, particularly the ocean, was the common thread of her favorite literature. She became a devoted writer at a young age and published her first story in St. Nicholas Magazine when she was just eleven years old.

Carson completed high school in 1925, graduating at the top of her class. The same year, she entered Pennsylvania College for Women (later Chatham College) as an English major. She became inspired by a biology teacher at her college however, and she switched her major to biology.

After her graduation in 1929 she held a summer fellowship at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She entered Johns Hopkins University and completed her masters degree in marine zoology in 1932. Carson next wrote publications for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. She also wrote radio scripts for a weekly broadcast, and the series on aquatic life proved surprisingly popular. She soon became a junior aquatic biologist at the Bureau, analyzing data on fish populations and writing brochures for the public. She was promoted to the position of Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With the growing popularity of her books (The Sea Around Us earned the National Book Award in 1951), Carson was able to leave the Bureau and work on her research and writing full-time. Carson moved with her mother to Southport, Maine in 1953.

Carson grew concerned about environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was the book Silent Spring, published in 1962. Silent Spring warned of a spring without songbirds and led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Silent Spring is generally credited with inspiring the modern global environmental movement. In its collection of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century, Time magazine declared: "Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book." Rachel Carson died from bone cancer in 1964.