American Women Afield: Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists

Front Cover
Marcia Bonta
Texas A&M University Press, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 248 pages
Armed with hand lenses and opera glasses, traveling on foot, by buggy, or model T, they explored thousands of miles of deserts, forests, beaches, and jungles. They were pioneering women naturalists who observed, studied, and experimented, then returned to write up their findings. What resulted were exquisitely written and scientifically accurate accounts of their explorations into natural science--a field long dominated by men.

Marcia Myers Bonta has collected the most charming and sensitive writings of twenty-five women naturalists of the late nineteenth through early twentieth centuries and supplemented them with well-researched biographical profiles. From Susan Fenimore Cooper's early warnings about the profligate use of natural resources to Mary Treat's tenacious defense of her scientific discoveries, from Alice Eastwood's defiance of convention and Caroline Dormon's, Lucy Braun's, and Rachel Carson's impassioned pleas to save the earth, American Women Afield catalogs the determination and devotion of these early scientists and acknowledges their invaluable contributions to ornithology, entomology, botany, agrostology, and ecology.

Each excerpt in this book reveals the important role these women played not only as writers but as popularizers of nature study at a time when very little literature on this subject was available to the general public. Whether scientist or generalist, the reader will discover insights into their methods of field work as they tame wasps, camp out in jungles, climb unnamed mountaintops, or sit patiently in the woods for hours.

Written as a companion book to Bonta's earlier published Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists, American Women Afield adds an additional dimension to female scientific history by presenting the authors' own words. Luckily for the reader, Bonta has scoured libraries, museums, and private collections to uncover letters, out-of-print journal articles, field notes, and selected book chapters from the recesses of academia. Each selection is unique in style, tone, and subject and clearly shows not only the authors' love of nature but their desire to communicate that love to others.

American Women Afield is a charming, informative, and revealing account of pioneering women--mentors whose lives have been forgotten for far too long.

From inside the book


Susan Fenimore Cooper
Graceanna Lewis
Mary Treat
Martha Maxwell
Annie Trumbull Slosson
Katharine Dooris Sharp
Althea Sherman
Elizabeth Gifford Peckham
Mary Sophie Young
Edith Clements
Edith Patch
Ann Haven Morgan
Margaret Morse Nice
Nellie Harris Rau
Amelia Laskey
Caroline Dormon

Alice Eastwood
Florence Merriam Bailey
Anna Botsford Comstock
Cordelia Stanwood
Agnes Chase
Ynes Mexia
E Lucy Braun
Ruth Harris Thomas
Rachel Carson
Selected Bibliography

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Page 243 - control of nature" is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.
Page 242 - As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life — a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways.
Page 82 - ... completed work. In filling up her nest she put her head down into it and bit away the loose earth from the sides, letting it fall to the bottom of the burrow, and then, after a quantity had accumulated, jammed it down with her head. Earth was then brought from the outside and pressed in, and then more was bitten from the sides.
Page 242 - WE STAND NOW where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one "less traveled by" — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.
Page 82 - Just here must be told the story of one little wasp whose individuality stands out in our minds more distinctly than that of any of the others. We remember her as the most fastidious and perfect little worker...
Page 3 - How pleasantly the shadows of the wood fall upon our heads when we turn from the glitter and turmoil of the world of man ! The winds of heaven seem to linger amid...
Page 242 - A truly extraordinary variety of alternatives to the chemical control of insects is available. Some are already in use and have achieved brilliant success. Others are in the stage of laboratory testing. Still others are little more than ideas in the minds of imaginative scientists, waiting for the opportunity to put them to the test. All have this in common: they are biological solutions, based on understanding of the living organisms they seek to control, and of the whole fabric of life to which...
Page 242 - ... we are dealing with life — with living populations and all their pressures and counterpressures, their surges and recessions. fOnly" by taking account of such life forces and by cautiously seeking to guide them into channels favorable to ourselves can we hope to achieve a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves.
Page 22 - Coming to the entrance of a bladder, it would sometimes pause a moment and then dash away. At other times it would come close up, and even venture part of the way into the entrance, and back out as if afraid. Another, more heedless, would open the door and walk in. But it was no sooner in than it manifested alarm — drew in its feet and antennae and closed its shell
Page 22 - I examined, fully nine out of every ten of the bladders contained this larva or its remains. When first caught it was fierce, thrusting out its horns and feet and drawing them back, but otherwise it seemed partly paralyzed, moving its body but very little; even small larvae of this species that had plenty of...

About the author (1995)

Marcia Myers Bonta is the author of five other books on nature and natural history, including Women in the Field published by Texas A&M University Press. She has published over 200 nature-oriented articles in such state and national magazines as Birder's World, Living Bird, Bird Watcher's Digest, and American Horticulturist. She also writes a column on Pennsylvania natural areas for Pennsylvania Wildlife and a monthly column for Pennsylvania Game News.

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