Rachel Carson and Her Sisters; Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment.

Author:Foster, Rebecca
Position:Book review
 
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Robert K. Musil; RACHEL CARSON AND HER SISTERS; Rutgers University Press (Nonfiction: Women's Studies) 26.95 ISBN: 9780813562421

Byline: Rebecca Foster

Environmentalism and feminism are two passions igniting this rich biographical study of American women in science.

In Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, Robert K. Musil uses the life and writings of Rachel Carson, particularly Silent Spring, as an exemplar of women's participation in the American environmental movement. He places Carson's achievements in context by illuminating, through dense but intriguing essays, the lives of trailblazing female scientists who inspired her and for whom she, in turn, paved the way. Fueled by imagination and humanitarian conviction, these conservationists entered into political activism in spite of the media, industry attacks, and overall gender bias that hindered their academic advancement.

Although Silent Spring was likened in revolutionary effect to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, earning Carson the designation of "the little lady who started it all," she in fact drew on the work of many scientist foremothers from the previous century. Among these were Susan Fenimore Cooper (daughter of novelist James), whose wildlife chronicle, Rural Hours, made her the first "literary ornithologist," and chemist Ellen Swallow Richards, the first MIT-educated woman, whose fervent advocacy of food standards and water quality earned her the title "the first lady of science." It is just as enlightening to trace Carson's direct influence on a subsequent generation of women scientists, including cancer...

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