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Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists

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Rosalie Edge (1877-1962) was the first American woman to achieve national renown as a conservationist. Dyana Z. Furmansky draws on Edge’s personal papers and on interviews with family members and associates to portray an implacable, indomitable personality whose activism earned her the names “Joan of Arc” and “hellcat.” A progressive New York socialite and veteran suffragist, Edge did not join the conservation movement until her early fifties. Nonetheless, her legacy of achievements--called "widespread and monumental" by the New Yorker--forms a crucial link between the eras defined by John Muir and Rachel Carson. An early voice against the indiscriminate use of toxins and pesticides, Edge reported evidence about the dangers of DDT fourteen years before Carson's Silent Spring was published.Today, Edge is most widely remembered for establishing Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the world's first refuge for birds of prey. Founded in 1934 and located in eastern Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain was cited in Silent Spring as an "especially significant" source of data. In 1930, Edge formed the militant Emergency Conservation Committee, which not only railed against the complacency of the Bureau of Biological Survey, Audubon Society, U.S. Forest Service, and other stewardship organizations but also exposed the complicity of some in the squandering of our natural heritage. Edge played key roles in the establishment of Olympic and Kings Canyon National Parks and the expansion of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Filled with new insights into a tumultuous period in American conservation, this is the life story of an unforgettable individual whose work influenced the first generation of environmentalists, including the founders of the Wilderness Society, Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund.

376 pages, Hardcover

First published May 15, 2009

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About the author

Bill McKibben

192 books708 followers
Bill McKibben is the author of Eaarth, The End of Nature, Deep Economy, Enough, Fight Global Warming Now, The Bill McKibben Reader, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and 350.org, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist," and Time magazine has called him "the world's best green journalist." He studied at Harvard, and started his writing career as a staff writer at The New Yorker. The End of Nature, his first book, was published in 1989 and was regarded as the first book on climate change for a general audience. He is a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He has been awarded Guggenheim Fellowship and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.


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5 stars
18 (29%)
4 stars
30 (49%)
3 stars
8 (13%)
2 stars
3 (4%)
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2 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Lacy.
357 reviews30 followers
April 5, 2017
I'm more than a little appalled that I hadn't heard of Mabel Rosalie Edge until recently. She was a mover and shaker and firmly shook up the establishment to make some much-needed change. She changed attitudes and culture. We are still feeling the shock waves of her incredible life today.

This biography was dense and didn't skimp out on details. I enjoyed reading this. About halfway through, I had the realization that, in order to give such a detailed account, the author really had to submerse herself completely in not only Rosalie's life but also those around her. Her research must have been very organized and well rounded.
Profile Image for Patricia.
604 reviews16 followers
September 26, 2022
A well-written and inspiring biography that shows how much a determined and courageous person can accomplish. She not only headed the development of a sanctuary for hawks, a bird that didn't get a lot of sympathy in her time, but she also had a major role in creating Olympic National Park and expanding Yosemite to save trees. Even though she came into activism and her love and knowledge of birds later in her life, she was not intimated by those who were quick to characterize people like her as sentimental. Good for her for persisting.
Profile Image for Amanda.
351 reviews5 followers
April 4, 2017
I think 4.5 stars. I had a weird false start with this book, and I couldn’t get into it at all. I blame the flu. A week later, I picked it back up and felt entirely different – and I read nearly all of it in a weekend. I’m surprised and disappointed that I wasn’t familiar with Rosalie Edge prior to reading this book; she is such an incredible leader in the conservation movement. Rosalie was such a badass, and is hugely inspirational. I really enjoyed reading this book, and learning about all of the triumphs Rosalie achieved through her steely persistence, honesty, and toughness. If only she were here in 2017. Best summary of Rosalie: “She’s unique in the field. She’s the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation”.

One of my favorites in the Wildlife Center of Virginia's online book club: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3...
Profile Image for Barb.
37 reviews
April 5, 2017
I found it hard to get into the book but did enjoy it after I did. Learned a lot about someone I had never heard of before and all she did.
13 reviews
October 24, 2020
I truly enjoyed learning about Rosale Edge, a pioneer in conservation. Moreover, it was eye opening to see how industry had such negative influence over attitudes and policies towards wildlife and trees. The book laid out how Edge was an effective activist and accomplished important "firsts" in protecting ecosystems. I wish Furmansky would have written a little more about the Audubon Society as it moved forward through the 20th century into the present since the prevailing theme of the book was that Edge butted heads with the society each step of the way.
Profile Image for Bob Stocker.
189 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2012
Rosalie Edge (1877-1962) was the little-known and unheralded mother of the modern conservation movement. She began life as the favorite child of an over-indulgent well-to-do father and developed into a conversationist only in late middle age. Her first significant conservation action was to question the propriety of National Association of Audubon Societies' close ties to ammunition manufactures and hunters when she was nearly 52 years old.

Dyana Furmansky's book about Edge develops slowly, too. The first two chapters about Edge's family background were almost dull enough to make me give the book a two star rating and move on to something else. I'm glad I persisted. Chapters about Edge's impact on the NAAS (now the National Audubon Society), her founding of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to stop the brazen slaughter of raptors as they migrate through Pennsylvania, and her lobbying to create Olympic National Park and Kings Canyon National Park and to add 8,000 acres to old-growth sugar pines to Yosemite National Park were inspiring.
Profile Image for Linda.
122 reviews2 followers
August 30, 2013
A 1937 photo of Rosalie Edge dressed in a suit and hat with a red-tailed hawk perched on her arm provides a clue to readers they are about to read the story of a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time. Dyana Z. Furmansky tells the story of Rosalie Edge, a socialite, estranged wife, mother, suffragette, activist, bird enthusiastic and conservationist.

The Bottom Line

Using Rosalie’s personal papers, interviews with her children, and her own research, Ms. Furmansky brought Rosalie Edge to life for me. Rosalie was a prolific writer, editor, and distributor of information. She was tenacious, willing to talk with anyone who might help her achieve her goals, and seemed immune to criticism.

I recommend Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy to readers interested in birds, wildlife, nature, conservation, or activism. Fans of history or interesting woman will also enjoy the book.

Read the whole review at: http://greengroundswell.com/rosalie-e...
Profile Image for Louise Chambers.
355 reviews
December 2, 2009
A formidable woman! That she established Hawk Mountain Sanctuary when most folks were still slaughtering hawks and other birds of prey, is enough to sing her praises. But to read of the many other battles for preservation and conservation of animals, trees and land is wonderful.

This book is filled with details and facts of meetings and Congressional hearings, so is somewhat slow to read, but well worth it.
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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