A Strong Woman and her Silent Spring Inspired the Environmental Movement

In the summer of 1962, The New Yorker published Silent Spring by Rachel Carson as a serial in three parts. President John F. Kennedy read it, and in August the newly published book became an instant bestseller. Ultimately, the book led a nationwide ban on DDT, sparked a nation’s awareness and interest, and the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A strong woman and her Silent Spring inspired the environmental movement.

Portrait photograph of Rachel Carson her book Silent Spring inspired the environmental movement
PUblic Domain

Early Life

Rachel Carson, the third child born to Robert and Maria McLean Carson, was born on May 27, 1907, near the Allegheny River on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. She had two passions: nature and writing. Her love of nature she inherited from her mother. As a child, she explored the forests and streams around her 65-acre farm. One of her stories was published by a children’s magazine at 10. At 11, she won her first prize for her story published in St. Nicholas Magazine.

Education

She graduated with honors from high school and won a scholarship to Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University). 

Inspired by her biology teacher, Mary Skinker, Rachel switched her major from English to biology and became one of only three women in the class.

She won a summer scholarship to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Maine.

Rachel graduated magna cum laude in 1929.

After winning a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, she studied Zoology.

She received a master’s degree in zoology from John Hopkins in 1932.

That summer she earned a summer fellowship at the U.S. Marine Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It was her first experience with the ocean.

She continued at John Hopkins working toward a doctorate. However, lack of funds forced her to drop out of graduate school in the spring of 1934.

The US Bureau of Fisheries

Coached by Mary Skinker, Rachel took the Federal Civil Service exams for junior wildlife biologist and junior aquatic biologist in 1935. She was the second woman ever hired by the US Bureau of Fisheries in Washington D.C. Her part-time job was writing radio scripts on marine life.

She became a junior aquatic biologist in 1935.

From 1939 to 1941, the government reorganized the Bureau of Fisheries under the Department of Interior. During the reorganization, they sent Rachel to Chicago.

She spent the summer of 1940 at the Fisheries Station at Woods Hole and sailed on the Bureau’s research ship, the SS Phalanthrop.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Image of a pier through a marsh at Wildlife Refuge 
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Public Domain

They promoted Rachel to Associate Aquatic Biologist, and she moved back to Washington D.C. More promotions followed. She became an Information Specialist for the department, now called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Wartime research includes radar and sea studies.

Accompanied first by FWS artist Shirley Briggs, and later by artist Kay Howe Roberts, Rachel conducts research from 1946 to 1948 at Chincoteague and Parker River Refuges, Mattamuskeet, and Red Rocks Lakes.

She visited the Florida Everglades Refuge and then sailed to the New England Bank aboard the SS Albatross III, a Woods Hole Oceanographic research ship.

Her Writing

She became a freelance writer when she joined the bureau. Her article “Undersea” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1937.

Her first book, Under the Sea-Wind, was published in 1941. Accord to the FWS, the book highlighted her “unique ability to present deeply intricate scientific material in clear poetic language that could captivate her readers and pique their interest in the natural world.” It was a Scientific Book Club selection, but WWII impacted sales, and it went out of print in 1946.

In July 1944, the Reader’s Digest rejected her proposed article about DDT because it was too “unpleasant.”

In 1952, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for The Sea Around Us (1951). It was on the New York Times Best-seller List for 32 weeks. The book also won a national science writing-prize and a Guggenheim grant.

In 1955, she published The Edge of the Sea.

Personal Life

Her father died a few months after the Bureau of Fisheries hired her. Rachel became the sole provider for the family.

Rachel’s older sister, Marian, died in 1937 at 39. Rachel and her mother took in Marian’s two daughters, Virginia, 12, and Marjorie, 11. They moved to Silver Spring, Maryland.

In 1950, Rachel had a cancerous breast tumor removed. The doctors made no further treatment recommendations.

Rachel retired from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1951 to write full time.

In 1953, thanks to her book sales, Rachel and her family moved to Southport Island, Maine. There she met Dorothy Freeman https://blogs.ntu.edu.sg/hp3203-1718-s2-08/dorothy-freeman/, a summer resident, who became a lifelong friend.

After her niece, Marjorie Williams, died in early 1957, Carson adopted Majorie’s son, Roger. They moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, to care for her aging mother.

Rachel’s mother died in 1958.

In 1960, Rachel had a radical mastectomy after her breast cancer returned. They told her her cancer diagnosis meant she had “a matter of months.” 

Inspired the Environmental Movement

Rachel was afraid of dying, but the idea of dying before she could finish the book terrified her.

Her manuscript, Silent Spring,was a warning to the public about the long-term effects of over-use of pesticides.

There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.

Rachel Carson, “A Fable for Tomorrow” from Silent Spring.

By early 1961, Rachel had multiple illnesses and multiple surgeries, all related to her cancer.

The history of life on earth has been an interaction between living things and their surroundings.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

She persevered and finished the book. They published Silent Spring in 1962.

Praise and Attacks

President Kennedy mentioned that he’d read Silent Spring, and it became the most talked about book in decades.

CBS interviewed Rachel for a TV special. By this time, she couldn’t stand because her cancer had spread to her spine. She begged CBS not to tell anyone she was sick. CBS kept her secret and “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson” aired on April 3, 1963. Millions viewed it.

She testified before Congress. The chemical industry and its allies vilified her with personal and professional attacks.

President John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee Report validated Carson’s research, and the government banned DDT.

Writer, scientist, and ecologist, Rachel Carson died on April 14,1964.

Legacy

photograph of a bronze sculpture of Rachel Carson sitting on a bench
photo by Laura A. Macaluso, Ph.D., CC BY-SA 4.0 

Silent Spring inspired the environmental movement and led not only to a nationwide ban on DDT but public awareness and the banning of other pesticides. And it led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Fish and Wildlife Service established the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in 1966 in cooperation with the State of Maine to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds.

They posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

Her homes are national historic landmarks, and various awards bear her name.

In 1995, Freeman’s granddaughter published letters exchanged between Rachel and her best friend, Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964: An Intimate Portrait of a Remarkable Friendship.

Conclusion

Rachel Carson was a remarkable woman, a strong woman. Silent Spring inspired the environmental movement and generations of people who work to protect the world and all its creatures.

Add Power to Your Creativity with the Basics

Whether you are just learning about your creativity or have been a creative forever, you can add power to your creativity with the basics. Regular review of the basics of your craft will keep your skills sharp. But remember to revisit these eight basics of creativity. That will also sharpen your skills.

mage of a man's hand with the index finger pointing at you with the words you can under it. You can add power to your creativity with the basics

Create Something Every Day

Create even when you don’t feel like it. Be your own boss, expect results. Even if you can only spend fifteen minutes right after you get up or during your lunch break… whenever. Creating something every day is akin to exercising. You strengthen that creative muscle by exercising daily. When your habit is to create something every day, your creativity will be there on the days when you don’t feel like working.

Always Have Your Basic Tools on Hand

Image of various tools--screw drivers, box cutter, wrenches, pliers, and hammer--always have your crafts tools at hand

Tools can be anything. Pen, paper, ink, software, hardware, techniques, reference books, even your workspace.

It’s okay if you can’t afford the optimal tools right away, but you can grow your collection of tools. 

One tool I strongly recommend is an ergonomic workspace.

• Practice Your Craft’s Basics

All arts have basic rules or guidelines. Make it a habit to review the basics via a textbook, with a critique partner, or with a mentor regularly. If you’re stuck, reviewing the basics might help you out of that rut. A strong understanding of the basics will give your creativity a powerful boost.

• Brainstorm

Image of a brain with electicity crackling thru it and lightening coming out of the bottom--brainstorming is one way to add power to your creativity with the basics
Illustration of a brain with lightning coming out of it. Concept for a brain storm

Schedule yourself a yes-yes brainstorming session. All ideas, no matter how stupid, ridiculous, or extreme you may think they are, in this session they are acceptable. Make a list or sketch. Then mix and match them to create new ideas.

Ask questions

Question the basics. Who, what, why, how, and sometimes where can be your creativity friends. They can jumpstart ideas you’ve brainstormed or ideas that aren’t quite what you want. Ask, why is this so? Can you alter it without ruining the esthetics of your art? Can you omit it? How can you turn it on its head?

Fill the well

Make it a regular habit to read inspirational (to you) fiction or nonfiction, view images, listen to sounds, feel textures, or experience new or revisit familiar scents. Find the two or three methods that fill your creative well and make it a habit to go to those regularly.

Copy the Masters

You may think this is for painters only. But it’s not. Writers, dancers, singers, no matter what your creative skill, copy the master—or try to. It’s amazing what you learn by making an exact copy and then playing with the Master’s work to see if you can improve it.

Believe

Believing in your creativity is the most important basic of any creative’s mind set. If you are always putting yourself down, demeaning your abilities, you are diminishing your creative power. So practice believing in your creativity. Start with a ritual or a mantra. Act as if you believe you are creative and real belief will follow.

Make it a Habit

You’ve heard the line: if you don’t plan, plan to fail. It’s true in creativity and in productivity. Set a place, a date, and a time you plan to create. Then guard that time with everything you’ve got. When you show up regularly and you protect that time, you reinforce your creativity. The habit of showing up regularly does wonders for being able to create every time you show up.

Focus

image of a pair of hands working wet clay

There are people who believe they are multi-focus creatives. I’m not here to diss them, but if you are starting out or frustrated or blocked. Focus on one craft. Or focus on one project. You don’t have to limit yourself forever. But unless you focus, you cannot know the basics or the limits of your creativity. To increase your creativity, limit your options anytime you’re stuck or feeling frustrated.

Embrace Bad Ideas and Mistakes

Part of creativity is mistakes and bad ideas. Embrace that because one day you’ll take what you think is a mistake or a bad idea and create something great.

Join a Creative Community

image of four hands with different skin colors gripping the wrists of the other and creating a square, a community of support

There are all kinds of creative communities. In-person, online, social media groups, coffee house groups, work groups, and groups that get together for movie nights. Those that share their work with each other may not be what you need. You might need a social group to share your frustrations or discuss techniques or problems. Shared journeys are often inspiring. Yes, most creatives are introverts, but we all need some social interaction. Choose what works best for you.

If you can’t find a community, make one yourself. There are many ways you can do this. Look at the ways your art form can appear in a creative community and go for it. 

And never feel obligated to stay in a creative community that belittles you or your talent. You may also need a different community at different times in your creative life. There’s no shame in finding what you need or in leaving behind a group you may have outgrown.

You are Creative

But you must nurture creativity. Feed it the basics. Exercise it. Practice, not to be perfect, but to give your creativity power. Regularly revisiting the basics will add power to your creativity. Remember to be creative, you don’t have to be perfect.

Do you remember to add power to your creativity with the basics? Did I miss a basic you revisit? Please share in the comments below. 

From Vultures to Family It’s First Line Friday

The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. From Vultures to Family It’s First Line Friday. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

Line drawing of a boy reading a book is the point of From Vultures to Family It’s First Line Friday

The black silhouette of a vulture circles overhead, its large dark shape contrasting with the bright afternoon sky.

The Outlands by Tyler Edwards

Prologue-About to Catch Fire

Phillip Chestnut didn’t understand why things had started to go sideways.

Effacement by Hieronymus Hawkes

So you’re the person responsible for the death of the number one,” the burly man in a security uniform tells me. 

All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise by Neve Maslakovic

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half the window.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The swallows skipped like flat stones across the surface of the infinity pool, their wings spread, and a lone woman in a gauzy beach coverup—what she might have called a kaftan if that word didn’t sound so matronly—watched them.

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

“His entire family was killed in a terrorist attack in Al-Iskan-dariya ten years ago,” said the Chief of Staff to the Executive Director of the Alliance General Intelligence Directorate.

Weft by Simon Rutter

People often tell me their family is strange.

The Arrival by Jessie Massey

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. These titles are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.


Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy From Vultures to Family It’s First Line Friday? Check out previous First Line Fridays. You’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it?