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American Women Afield: Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists

American Women Afield: Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists

by Marcia Myers Bonta (Editor)

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 20th in Texas A&M's Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environmental Series and a companion to Bonta's Women in the Field, this book highlights the works of 25 women naturalists whose writing is as noteworthy for its scientific insight as for its feminine perspective. Over a century before such writers as Rachel Carson would put pen to paper and influence a new generation of women naturalists, 19th-century writers Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Treat and Althea Sherman wrote as if to prove once and for all that Thoreau and his male cohorts were not alone in their desire to study and preserve the natural resources disappearing around them. Cooper's Rural Hours and Treat's Home Studies in Nature, both excerpted here, preserve in beautifully written passages glimpses of many plants and birds long since extinct. In ``Ecology and World War I,'' an excerpt from her Adventures in Ecology, Edith Clements recounts her career as a naturalist. That Clements most often worked alongside and in the shadow of her husband, acclaimed plant ecologist Frederic Clements, takes nothing from her prose. Bonta includes biographical entries and bibliographies for each author, ensuring that naturalists for years to come may learn something of their forgotten heritage. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Bonta (Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists, LJ 4/15/91), has collected excerpts from the writings of 25 women field naturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries that emphasize how and why they did their fieldwork, their concern for conservation issues long before such issues became popular, and their ability to write entertainingly about their work and their love of nature. Each excerpt is preceded by a short biographical sketch; those portrayed range from Susan Fenimore Cooper to the wives and collaborators of famous naturalists like Elizabeth Gifford Peckham and Nellie Harris Rau to Rachel Carson. This book will appeal to natural scientists and backyard observers of nature as well as to all who enjoy the company of these courageous feminists.Marie L. Lally, Alabama Sch. of Mathematics & Science, Mobile
A collection of the writings of 25 women naturalists of the late 19th through early 20th century, with biographical profiles. Writings by naturalists including Susan Fenimore Cooper, Alice Eastwood, Ynes Mexia, E. Lucy Braun, and Rachel Carson recount travels and findings and discuss vanishing species and deforestation. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Donna Seaman
Bonta hasn't been able to forget the writings of the women naturalists she portrayed in "Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists" (1991), so she has selected texts by 25 of them for this companion volume. Here, in their own voices, naturalists such as Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Treat, Florence Merriam Bailey, Ann Haven Morgan, and Rachel Carson record their observations about the seasons, plants, forests, rivers, birds, and insects as well as accounts of their frequently adventurous expeditions. Bonta notes that these women field naturalists were "focused on the business at hand," obsessed with "naming, knowing, and understanding what they saw." Writing for popular as well as scholarly magazines, these naturalists were instrumental in raising environmental consciousness and alerting people to the importance of conservation. Bonta briefly profiles each naturalist and suggests further reading.
WomanSource Catalog & Review: Tools for Connecting the Community for Women
Marcia Meyers Bonta, a self-taught naturalist, was prompted to begin researching the hidden history of women naturalists in this male-dominated field by her revelatory discovery of Rural Hours, one of the first synoptic accounts of natural life, and written in 1854, four years prior to Thoreau's Walden. The author was Susan Fenimore Cooper, and although widely acclaimed at the time and in print for more than 40 years, it had faded to obscurity. She is reclaimed here as the first entry in this collection of nature writings by women. Following are the writings of 25 women naturalists of the 19th and 29th centuries–botanists, ornithologists, entomologists, biologists–excerpted from their field notes, articles from scientific and popular journals and books. Chronologically arranged, the writngs describe field observations, methods and discoveries, and also these women's joy and commitment to nature and the environment. Many were some of the first conservationalists. As a celebration of the interconnection between women and nature, and of women who pioneered the field, this is an important and fascinating read.

Product Details

Texas A&M University Press
Publication date:
Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environment Series , #20
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.35(h) x 1.06(d)

Meet the Author

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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