Elizabeth D. Blum, Ph.D.
Department of History
Troy State University
At the intersection of two relatively new fields of study, the historiography of women’s involvement in the environment suffers from numerous gaps. Most environmental history has centered on elite male concerns; generally, women’s involvement tends to be ignored or marginalized. Recently, however, different trends have come to light, especially with scholarship surrounding the environmental justice movement. Although highly polemical, this literature dealing with the relationships between race, class and environmental hazards envelops some gender issues. Unfortunately, the environmental justice field remains highly presentist, with few authors examining such trends over an extended period of time. Women’s historians, in addition, have failed to examine female participation in environmental activism except in the most perfunctory of ways. A separate literature on “ecofeminism” suffers from a lack of coherence, tending to be highly theoretical and esoteric, rather than recognizing past contributions or historical trends. Overall, a lack of cross-field knowledge has contributed to isolated, often ahistorical studies of women’s involvement in the environment. However, the work in this field to date often demonstrates the possibility of exciting and rewarding opportunities for research involving class, race and gender analysis.
Several sociologists have conducted various comparative scientific studies of environmental attitudes held by men and women through polls and surveys. The “gender poll” literature falls within a wider environmental poll literature, which has included research to determine environmental interest on the basis of age, education, income and geographic or urban location. While the “gender poll” articles individually lack historical content, this wave of literature reaches back to the early 1970s, and taken as a whole provides some useful overall data for the historian. Predictably, the literature is far from consistent in its results. Some studies find no difference between the sexes over environmental issues, some find men more interested and others find women more interested. Most of the studies base their analysis upon somewhat ahistorical assumptions of unchanging gender traits. Specifically, they assert that society conditions men toward an economic provider role, which demands and encourages competition and rationality as well as domination over nature. These studies also assume that women, on the other hand, lean toward a more nurturing, emotional role as mother. Therefore, these gender poll studies assume that women can be expected to exhibit greater concern over the environment, especially with local concerns that might affect the family.
In 1983, using a mail survey involving both the general public and a large environmental group, Jan McStay and Riley Dunlap discovered that women expressed more concern than men over the environment. In addition, they found that “women in both samples are slightly less likely than men to engage in ‘public’ behaviors on behalf of environmental quality...[but] they are significantly more likely than men to engage in ‘personal’ behaviors on behalf of the environment.” The authors attribute this difference to the gender separation of the public and private sphere: the “personal behaviors” often involve household duties or purchases, which women control more frequently, like recycling cans, bottles and newspapers, keeping thermostats turned down, conserving electricity, cutting down on driving and avoiding environmentally harmful household products. The “public behaviors,” on the other hand, like contacting a public official involve political actions in which men participate more frequently.
In two studies conducted in 1985, Lawrence C. Hamilton found explicit evidence of women’s greater interest in local environmental issues. Hamilton noted that gender and parenthood combined to make mothers more concerned about the environment than both men and childless women. He posits that local environmental issues are physically close and immediate, and that mothers therefore see them as an issue involving the safety and health of their children.
As another example of the “poll” literature, T. Jean Blocker and Douglass Lee Eckberg conducted a telephone survey in 1989 to determine differences between men and women over local and general environmental issues. The authors discovered that women expressed far more concern about local issues than men. However, unlike Hamilton, they did not uncover a difference between mothers and women without children, although mothers were more likely than fathers to favor environmental issues over economics. Finally, the authors found that full-time employment failed as an indicator of interest in environmental issues, as generally both women and men employed full-time professed less interest in economic benefits than environmental improvements. Overall, they “found that the ‘women’s issue’ label is appropriate as applied to local environmental issues.”
As noted, many of the studies demonstrate that women, and often women with children, express more interest in environmental issues, particularly local ones, than men. Whether or not this result stems from the authors’ common essentialist supposition that “women are closer to the environment” remains highly debatable, but the poll literature provides some data to inform the historian. As noted earlier, the main limitation is its ahistorical nature: in these studies, sociologists neglect change over time as a variable. Therefore, the reader gets no sense of how or whether this issue has developed over time. Finally, the methodology of using telephone or mail surveys may bias these studies against the poor or non-English speaking residents, perhaps revealing an inherent education, class or ethnic bias.
The emerging field of ecofeminism also grapples with issues of gender and its connections to the environment. Françoise d’Eaubonne coined the term “ecofeminism” in her dramatically titled 1974 work, Le Feminisme ou la mort. Since that time, ecofeminism has gained an impressive literature, as well as inspired other avenues, like poetry and art. Ecofeminism, consisting of a combination of the ideas of radical feminism and ecology, grew from women’s joint involvement in the anti-nuclear and peace movements of the 1970s. That early activism, however, seems to been stifled by an increasing focus on theoretical literature. Most generally, ecofeminists connect male domination of nature with the historic oppression of women.
Although ecofeminism combines feminism and ecological principles, authors disagree over fundamental tenets, specifically the definition of ecofeminism, as well as its role and influence. Carolyn Merchant advocates a broad conception of ecofeminism, stretching the definition to make it appear far more inclusive and widespread. Merchant states that “[w]eaving together the many strands of the ecofeminist movement is the concept of reproduction construed in its broadest sense to include the continued biological and social reproduction of human life and the continuance of life on earth.” This incredibly broad definition includes virtually any type of female environmental activism under its banner. Merchant specifically includes the American toxics movement as a type of ecofeminism, although she admits it is not “explicitly ecofeminist.”
Many other scholars have pointed to a far more limited definition of ecofeminism, perhaps betraying it as an esoteric and highly theoretical movement. For example, in contrast to Merchant’s expansive definition, Barbara Epstein states that “[e]cofeminism argues that patriarchy, the domination of women by men, has been associated with the domination of nature...Ecofeminists also believe that capitalism is linked to domination and must be replaced by another social order; they envision small-scale economies and local, grass-roots democracy.” This more limited definition seems to exclude many types of spontaneous grass-roots activism, which lack revolutionary or overtly feminist rhetoric.
In addition to this definitional confusion, ecofeminism consists of numerous, often widely different, strands of thought and ideology. Val Plumwood describes the two basic divisions of ecofeminism into cultural and social ecofeminism. Cultural ecofeminists, dominant from the 1970s to approximately 1985, “stress the links, historical, biological and experiential, between women and nature, and see their joint oppression as the consequences of male domination…. [In addition, they emphasize] the quest for a new spiritual relationship with nature.” This spiritual relationship often takes the form of paganism, including goddess worship or Wicca. Charlene Spretnak presents a vivid example of cultural ecofeminism in her article “Toward An Ecofeminist Spirituality.” Spretnak argues for the revival of goddess worship as a means for better relations with nature. She acknowledges that a patriarchal, Christian society will have difficulty accepting a religion lacking a judgmental god and concepts of sin. Idealizing primitive matrifocal communities, Spretnak stresses a return to the ideals of Minoan Crete or pre-industrial Europe, where women supposedly had more power and control in society.
Social ecofeminists, Plumwood’s second division of the field argue that it is not so much that women themselves are the model for a better relation to nature, but that the entire development of the dominant culture and its relationship to nature has been affected by male and other forms of dominance. The task is no less the construction of a less oppositional culture. Social ecofeminists view nature as a political rather than a natural category.
Carolyn Merchant’s early work exemplifies social ecofeminism. In The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution, Merchant describes the transition from an organic view of nature to a mechanistic perspective with the advent of the scientific revolution. In addition to the change of seeing nature as alive to seeing the world as something to be manipulated and exploited, the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also saw the related transition to male domination over women.
Merchant and Spretnak represent opposite sides of the ecofeminist spectrum. Spretnak presents an essentialist argument: because of the inherent nurturing capacity of females, goddess worship by women will improve humankind’s relationship with nature. Merchant, on the other hand, sees male domination of both women and nature as rooted in cultural and scientific perceptions, including concepts widely accepted as common sense. Changing man’s domination of nature, according to Merchant, will involve fundamental cultural shifts in belief systems and patriarchal society.
The definitional problem within ecofeminism led to outside critiques. Janet Biehl’s Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics strongly criticizes ecofeminism. “Ecofeminism,” she states bluntly, “far from being healthily diverse, is so blatantly self-contradictory as to be incoherent.” Biehl criticizes ecofeminism for rejecting any positive forces of Western culture, and placing women and nature outside and above society. She states, “Ecofeminism has also become a force for irrationalism, most obviously in its embrace of goddess worship, its glorification of the early Neolithic, and its emphasis on metaphors and myths.” She further admonishes her predecessors for undermining the feminism they claim to represent: ecofeminists support the very labels masculine society forced on women — that of being closer to nature. Biehl’s critique arises from the dichotomies and definitional problems within the literature. Her criticisms apply more directly to cultural ecofeminism, not the liberal, social or socialist ecofeminist literature. Many ecofeminists object to the spiritual and essentialistic aspects of that branch. However, Biehl provides a useful counterpoint and focus to some of the literature’s disorientation.
Apart from often romanticizing Native American religion and culture, ecofeminism has not incorporated race and class issues into the discussion of women’s relationship with nature. Some authors, however, have attempted to include possible connections and alliances between non-European groups and ecofeminism. Two articles in Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics demonstrate this new trend. Gwyn Kirk discovered that ecofeminism and Chicano environmentalists “share crucial common ground.” For example, both view environmental degradation as linked to profit-seeking capitalism and historic race and class oppression. Both connect people and nature closely, and both challenge institutionalized, bureaucratic science as the “truth” and sole remedy for environmental problems. Kirk suggests that these commonalities may serve to broaden the environmental justice movement.
Malia Davis provides an interesting analysis of the often unacknowledged links between Chicana activists and ecofeminism. Although Davis interviewed only three very similar women, her results and analysis deserve attention. Each of the three women expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived exclusiveness of feminism and “mainstream” environmentalism, and yet held views similar to some ecofeminists. Notably, each held essentialist reasons for women’s activism, believing that “women have a special connection to the earth and a greater understanding of life because of their capacity to bear children.” Despite these recent efforts, and those of other scholars, the field of ecofeminism has yet to connect meaningfully with women of color or the non-elite.
Just as ecofeminism suffers from numerous gaps, the field of environmental history as a whole generally has neglected gendered analysis, as well as race and class. Until recently, much of the field centered on elite white men’s conceptions of the environment, or on wilderness issues. Even historical literature describing women’s involvement in the early environmental movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been somewhat incidental to both women’s history and environmental history. Generally, the environmental history that mentions women’s involvement makes little effort to analyze their activism or to tie their environmental attitudes to other women’s literature.
A lack of biographies of prominent women environmentalists parallels the dearth of gendered analysis in the field. Many women’s biographies draw attention to women’s roles, but speak more to the time periods in which the works were produced rather than the actual roles of the women involved. Two biographies of Ellen Swallow Richards demonstrate this point. After the Civil War, Richards became the first American to apply the concept of ecology to her scientific studies of nutrition, chemistry and sanitation. Her work gradually evolved to influence both the fields of home economics and the Progressive Era municipal housekeeping reforms. A biography by Caroline Hunt published originally in 1942 and reissued in 1958 stressed Richards’s role in the development of the field of home economics. Reflecting the high level of domesticity emphasized for women in the 1950s, the book states that Richards’s “unique contribution was her vision of higher education linked to the traditional area of women’s activity - homemaking.”
Another biography published in 1973 during a high level of activism for both the environmental and the women’s movement stressed an entirely different role for Richards. Instead of examining her role in the home economics crusade, Robert Clarke focused on her role in ecology, science and as a founder of the modern environmental movement. While Hunt detailed Richards’s role in the “traditional” woman’s field of the home, Clarke notes her exceptional qualities, observing that she became “MIT’s first woman student, its first woman graduate; and its first woman faculty member — the First Lady of Science and Technology 100 years ago.” Richards’s highly disparate biographies demonstrate an incomplete picture of her life, while at least drawing attention to some of her accomplishments.
The most authoritative biography of a women environmentalist is Linda Lear’s Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. Meticulously research and documented, Lear follows Carson’s writing and activism that placed her in the center of an emerging environmental ethic during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Lear describes Carson’s driving need to “witness for nature,” fostered by her early life experiences and her scientific training and countered by a somewhat shy, private personality. As opposed to Richard’s biographies, Lear does an excellent job with Carson’s biography, placing her efforts in historical context and documenting the continuous difficulties she faced as a woman in a male field.
Although focusing almost exclusively on elite white women, several authors have made attempts to clarify women’s environmental activism during the Progressive Era. This activism spans a wide range of concerns, from conservation and preservation to urban pollution and health concerns. Several of these works fail to analyze why significant numbers of women became interested in environmental issues, or how striking their political power was in an era before women gained the right to vote. However, others grapple with women’s involvement in greater depth, often focusing on whether women’s activism should be considered “conservative” or “feminist” or “radical.”
One of the most well-developed sections of Progressive era women’s environmental activism focuses on women in public health and sanitation issues during the Progressive Era. Suellen M. Hoy presents an early look at women’s involvement in urban environmental reform in her article “‘Municipal Housekeeping’: The Role of Women in Improving Urban Sanitation Practices, 1880-1917.”33 Hoy details the activism of women in urban pollution reform, focusing primarily on the activities of Ellen Swallow Richards, Caroline Bartlett Crane and Mary McDowell. She finds that, in general, sanitation reform was limited mainly to upper and middle class middle-aged women who had the leisure time available to devote to activities like “cleaning streets, inspecting markets, abating smoke, purifying water, and collecting and disposing of refuse.”34 Although demographically limited, the women involved in these activities came from a very wide geographic area: Hoy finds evidence of their crucial work in Chicago, Kalamazoo, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Denver and Portland.
Interestingly, Hoy presents these reformers as decidedly conservative, although they affected significant change. She states that
the movement for sanitary reform attracted women who were satisfied with their traditional societal roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers. They were women who were seeking ways to enlarge their sphere of action ‘without touching the sources of their inequality.’ They adopted goals that were conservative in nature: “to educate members, mentally and morally; to create public opinion; to secure better conditions of life.”35
Some of Hoy’s findings fail to support such a conservative image for these Progressive reformers. For example, while Hoy states that many women approached urban pollution reform as an extension of their domestic duties, some of the groups ventured farther and farther afield from initial “municipal housekeeping” duties. The Women’s Municipal League in New York City began, as did many women’s groups, with a focus on street cleaning issues. After one woman studied sanitation workers, she became alarmed at their working conditions, high expenses for required garments and lack of benefits. This led the League to push for pension benefits for the protection of the workers and their families in addition to legislative maneuvering at various levels for sanitation reform.36 Despite Hoy’s charge of conservatism, urban pollution reform presented a way for women to push into other, more varied reform movements.
In The Gospel of Germs, Nancy Tomes finds that public health activism had mixed results for women’s agency and power in society. Tomes discusses the intersection of older versions of domestic sanitary advice with the new science on germs.37 Using a gendered approach, Tomes emphasizes that women gained power from incorporating and developing these ideas. However, the more exacting standards expected of women could also impose constraints and a high level of responsibility for even minute mistakes. Other scholars have claimed a positive role for health activism for women in other ways. Regina Morantz states that women’s involvement in the public health crusade “became a fundamental ingredient in women’s modernization, allowing her to cope with the problems created by industrial and urban living and easing her transition into a more complex and urban world.”38
Agreeing with Hoy regarding the nature of reform efforts, Carolyn Merchant posits that women’s involvement in the early conservation movement remained essentially conservative in nature.39 Merchant finds that upper and middle class women played a pivotal role in many of the early conservation issues, including forest and water conservation and the doomed fight to prevent the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park in the early twentieth century.40 Merchant sees an inherent tension in women’s involvement in the conservation issues. On the one hand,
women frequently saw themselves as ideologically opposed to what they perceived as commercial and material values. Feminist and progressive in their role as activists for the public interest, they were nevertheless predominantly conservative in their desire to uphold traditional values and middle-class life styles rooted in these same material interests.41
Both Merchant and Hoy see Progressive Era women’s involvement in environmental reform movements, including the conservation movement and municipal housekeeping, as primarily conservative in nature, as they feel the women failed to question or oppose their roles in society.42
Smoke pollution reform efforts remain one of the better-documented early environmental issues involving women during the Progressive Era. This activism deserves significant attention in the literature since women played such a commanding role. Waged largely by middle class reformers, women expressed great concern on a number of levels about the prevalence of smoke in urban areas. David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives emerges as the most thorough discussion of early smoke reform.43 Stradling identifies transitions in smoke pollution reform, involving shifts in the dominant forces behind the reform, as well as the focus of the smoke production. In the first period, approximately from the 1890s to the 1910s, members of the public, predominantly women, began efforts to counter many people’s perception of smoke as progress and economic success, using health and cleanliness concerns to rail against smokestacks. By the 1910s, however, this lay control shifted to (male) engineers and other experts, who touted smoke as an enemy of efficiency. Instead of focusing on smokestack production of soot and smoke, the experts attempted to improve boiler room technology, making burning the fuel more efficient to produce less smoke. Although Stradling found women instrumental in changing perceptions of smoke, he agrees with Merchant and Hoy in classifying their activism as essentially conservative. In making this conclusion, Stradling notes that the women failed to challenge the ethics of production or capitalism inherent in Progressive Era environmental problems.44
Progressive Era women’s environmental activism also included wildlife preservation campaigns, documented most thoroughly by Thomas Dunlap.45 In Saving America’s Wildlife, Dunlap states that wildlife preservation took on distinct gender qualifications, with men promoting hunting as a test of masculinity and character, and women finding a different place: “They ‘appreciated’ nature or taught children the ‘proper’ attitudes toward our ‘friends in fur and feathers.’“46 He notes that, around the turn of the century women’s clubs organized to fight against the feather trade, which destroyed birds for women’s fashions. In keeping with this separate role, women also campaigned to have schools include Audubon programs in their curriculum. Contrary to other scholars, Dunlap sees women’s efforts in this area as the vanguard of the most radical wing of the humane movement at the time, attacking established institutions, predator poisoning and capitalism.
Very few environmental history studies document women’s activism or attitudes in the years between 1920 and 1960. Dunlap aptly demonstrates that women continued to be involved with wildlife preservation into the 1950s.47 In a description of the successful attempts to reduce levels of smoke pollution in Pittsburgh in the early 1940s, Joel Tarr stresses the importance of women’s activism.48 Women’s clubs constituted the single greatest number of groups to support smoke control during the early 1940s. Tarr attributes this activism partially to women’s disgust over the additional cleaning necessitated by the high levels of dark smoke. Although Tarr seems to tie this activism to elite women, working class women may have been doubly affected by continuous cleaning, particularly if they worked as domestics. Tarr notes that working class women may have borne a greater share of the smoke because they generally lived closer to the industry of Pittsburgh. Interestingly, and perhaps indicative of a latent radical feminism during the 1940s, Tarr states that during hearings held by the Smoke Elimination Commission in Pittsburgh (three of the ten members were women), “a number of women’s clubs [testified] concerning the negative impacts of smoke on the family, on physical and mental health, and on the enslavement of women to the drudgery of constant housework and cleaning.”49 The term, “enslavement,” of course, may simply be Tarr’s interpretation of the testimony, but it may also reflect some women’s true feelings of being trapped in never-ending housework without male assistance, well before the issue gained popular currency in the 1970s.
Just as environmental history often lacks links to concurrent women’s activism or literature, several women’s histories have analyzed various environmental issues, neglecting the environmental movement and scholarship. Some women’s history points to striking differences between conceptions of the environment by African-Americans and whites, especially between slaves and their masters. Roderick Nash, in Wilderness and the American Mind, presents a compelling case that Americans have reversed their ideas about wilderness between the founding of the colonies and the 1970s. Mainly focusing on white men’s ideas, Nash believes that early pioneers, beginning with the Puritans, “saw wilderness as the symbol of anarchy and evil to which the Christian was unalterably opposed”.50 Later white pioneers kept this hostility toward nature, seeing it as something to conquer so that fields could be sown and plowed.
Even cursory reading, however, suggests that blacks may have held very different views of their environment, including wilderness. Slaves may have thought of wilderness as a more beneficial place, providing refuge and food, from the start. For example, as a method of resisting their masters, slave women often left the plantation for a few days, using the surrounding wilderness as a retreat or refuge. Deborah Gray White aptly describes this type of behavior, relating the stories of one woman who “found the rattlesnakes of the South Carolina rice swamps more comforting than her own cabin” and another who “built her own rude hut from dead branches and camouflaged it with leaves of palmetto on the edge of a swamp.”51 The actions of these slaves at least demonstrate a different conception of the wild areas surrounding their plantations than what Nash has described for white setters.52
As another example, in Gender & Jim Crow, Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore describes the continued activism of black women in the face of the disenfranchisement of black men.53 She specifically describes, as an example, the Salisbury Colored Women’s Civic League, founded in North Carolina in 1913, which actively worked for better garbage pickup, sewer lines and sanitary privies in their neighborhoods to improve the health of the black residents.54 As another example, Jacqueline Anne Rouse offers addition information of black women’s involvement in environmental issues in the early twentieth century. In her study of Lugenia Burns Hope, she notes that black women in Atlanta’s Neighborhood Union worked to improve urban living conditions for blacks, petitioning for sanitation, lighting, sewers, water mains and recreational areas.55 Gilmore and Rouse use these as examples of black women’s agency, but fail to link the process to other environmental literature or activism of any sort.
Each of these examples of early environmentalism, especially those of Gilmore and Rouse, while not connecting to environmental history, offers exciting points of interest for research. Namely, these studies suggest that African-American women attempted to secure reforms and improvements in their urban environments in the early twentieth century. Environmental history at least minimally recognizes white women’s involvement, but has failed to document a multiracial component to the early movement. In addition, each of these examples demonstrate that blacks did not suddenly discover urban environmental problems in the 1980s, as much of the environmental justice literature suggests, but indicates that environmental activism has a longstanding tradition in black communities.56 Overall, however, the literature of this early period, both from an environmental and a women’s history point of view suffers from almost complete isolation from each other.
Case studies of women’s involvement in the more recent environmental activism of the 1970s through the 1990s are more numerous than those of the Progressive Era environmental movement.57 In addition, to a few of the authors’ credit, these works have begun a more sophisticated analysis of women’s involvement across both the fields of women’s and environmental history. Some of the recent environmental justice literature has noted the occurrence of women’s involvement and leadership in local environmental struggles for poor communities and people of color. However, many of these studies almost fall within the category of promotional advertising for environmental justice activism. For example, in the typical account, a community led by women joins together to fight against environmental hazards. Although not always successful, the community and women emerge from these struggles with a new sense of agency and political power. These studies pay very little attention to conflicts beyond the “community versus industry” model, including factions or conflicts within groups. In addition, this recent literature remains exceedingly ahistorical, refusing to examine change over time or to link women’s activism of the 1980s to anything prior.58
Works by women’s historians suggest women’s centrality in many environmental areas in the post-World War II period. Elaine May in Homeward Bound describes the increasing requirements of expertise for homemakers in the 1950s, particularly in the area of preparedness for nuclear war.59 The emphasis may have led to increased awareness regarding the hazards of nuclear war and fallout by many women. Amy Swerdlow discusses the rhetoric and tactics of Women Strike For Peace, which organized a massive November 1961, strike by 50,000 American housewives in protest of nuclear war.60 Although their activism centered around anti-war issues, WSP women expanded their environmental knowledge through the publicizing the effects of Strontium 90 in milk. Both May and Swerdlow demonstrate that even in the politically repressive times of the late 1950s and early 1960s, women organized and protested against environmental issues, justifying their involvement through their role as mothers and housewives.
In her work on the roots of the second wave women’s movement, Sara Evans describes another wing of activism by young women involved in the student movement of the 1960s.61 When Students for a Democratic Society moved into community organizing in 1965, the men attempted to organize the street gangs of young men. The women, on the other hand, found themselves drawn into more day-to-day concerns after talking with many of the poor women in the neighborhoods. The student activists developed programs from these day-to-day concerns. One of these programs included GROIN (Garbage Removal or Income Now), with a basic focus on what must have been a primary concern among many of the neighborhood women. Both May and Evans, as with other works by women’s historians, however, fail to link this environmental activism with any other literature or place it in any type of larger environmental context.
Sociologist Celene Krauss has done perhaps the most substantial analytical work in recent women’s activism in the environment. In “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization,” Krauss examines how working class women become politicized through toxic waste activism.62 She finds that most working class women begin with a strong belief in government, only to become disillusioned when their concerns go unanswered. These women develop new theories of democracy, realizing the importance of grass-roots protest and activism. The women also use their experiences as mothers to help them organize and to motivate their actions. Ironically, Krauss finds that the family often becomes a casualty itself, as women activists’ divorce rates remain high.
In “Women and Toxic Waste Protests: Race, Class and Gender as Resources of Resistance,” Krauss expands on her earlier work, focusing on the protest experiences of white, black and Native American working class women in toxic waste activism.63 She finds that white women often begin with a strong belief in democracy, only to become disillusioned with both the government and the capitalist system. Black women begin with far more political awareness and skepticism than whites, tending to link their struggle against toxics to other issues, especially civil rights. Native American women, to conclude, share black women’s lack of faith in the government. Krauss states that Native American women, however, begin with a position of greater respect within their community and religion than other women. Each group uses their “traditional role as mothers” to justify their involvement in the fight against toxics. In this fight, far from being solely a local, single-issue matter, women eventually coalesce to protest broader race, class and gender inequalities. Krauss’ arguments represent a good first step, but her description of African-American and Native American women seems overly simplistic and stereotypical. For example, with the loss of independence and subsistence ways of life for Indian tribes, some scholars surmise that indigenous women lost some duties, power and respect beginning with European contact.64
Elaine S. Wellin’s 1996 dissertation completed at the University of Michigan offers another source for research.65 While her study only involved interviews with women active in environmental groups in the Michigan area from approximately 1990-1995, Wellin’s theories may be useful as a starting point for analysis on activism in other time periods. Wellin found that while women generally were close to the environmental problem, they often were marginalized in many different ways from offering a solution. Wellin notes that as mothers, “in their traditional roles as caregivers and homemakers,” women see the effects of environmental degradation, with things as small as tennis shoes falling apart, to things as large as miscarriages or deformed children. However, she also finds that the main avenues of power marginalize women, as men continue to dominate boardrooms and governmental posts. Interestingly, although Wellin finds that many women equate their activism with their roles as mothers, others pursue activism for very different reasons, including protecting their businesses or family property. Corroborating Krauss’ findings, she also finds that women tend to experience disillusionment with government in their activism.66
Vera Norwood stands virtually alone in her attempt to join the two fields of environmental and women’s history.67 Covering a wide time period from approximately the American Revolution through the 1980s, Norwood uses biographical sketches of prominent women to focus on female involvement in writing nature essays, illustrating nature books, designing and developing gardens and wildlife preservation and education. Norwood’s women generally choose their occupation or hobby for their appropriateness to gender norms, but often end up stretching those boundaries and developing acceptability for women in environmental concerns. In addition, she also points out that these women show historical links to the current ecofeminist movement, because they implicitly critiqued patriarchial society by their actions.
Her work remains severely limited, however. The women she highlights come exclusively from the elite classes. Her cases in the early 19th century, for example, involve college-educated women who have time and resources to devote to nature studies and illustrations. Other women have resources to use large plots of land for growing flower gardens or embark on safaris to Africa with their husbands. African Americans and Native Americans are almost entirely neglected. To examine their views, Norwood uses mainly twentieth century authors, like Toni Morrison and Leslie Silko, to define views of women of color across time. Another problem is her limited definition of “nature,” which, for Norwood, excludes urban areas. Despite these concerns, Norwood’s study effectively demonstrates the longstanding nature of elite women’s involvement in nature study and environmental awareness, as well as their attempts to use environmentalism to stretch gender boundaries.
Glenda Riley supplements Norwood’s account in Women and Nature: Saving the “Wild” West.68 Writing to counter the traditional myth of environmentalism as male-dominated and defined, Riley examines women’s interaction with the American West. To her credit, Riley includes some information about Native American and black women, although her main focus remains on mostly elite white women. Similar to Norwood, Riley’s “nature” omits urban areas, instead focusing on parks and landscapes. She found significant differences between men and women in their conception of the West, their preservation or conservation tactics and their definition of places of value. Far from fearing nature, female writers, backpackers and activists frequently “feminized the outdoors by imposing a female presence on the West — in the form of ‘ladies’’ campgrounds, or by developing clothing that accommodated outdoor activities but still fell into the realm of what was considered proper.”69 Women also included the preservation of Native Americans in their activism. In addition, in contrast to Merchant and Hoy’s earlier work, Riley describes the women in her study as “subtle feminists,” who pursued conservation because they could do so “without raising too many hackles or being labeled ‘strong-minded women.’”70 Riley’s work provides an effective base for other studies, since she places women as important actors and uses primary historical research to shed light on commonly held beliefs about women and the environment.
Of environmental historians, Robert Gottlieb provides perhaps the most comprehensive account of women’s involvement to date. In Forcing the Spring, Gottlieb stresses the continuity of the environmental movement from the nineteenth century to the present. To emphasize his theory of continuity, Gottlieb notes the presence of women in urban environmental reform during the Progressive Era as well as during the more recent movement of the 1970s and 1980s. While stressing the role of women like Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton and Ellen Richards in the early part of the movement, Gottlieb also includes women involved in the more recent anti-toxics struggles, including Penny Newman and Lois Gibbs. Gottlieb sees women’s involvement as closely related to issues of gender and place. He states that “the involvement of women in the antitoxics movement was a function of who they were, related to their sense of family and community.”71 He also sees women’s roles as mothers as pivotal to their roles in the movement, mentioning “[a]s caretakers and nurturers, mothers bring to the movement a sense of immediacy and passion and inclusiveness related to the task at hand.”72 With his work, Gottlieb’s book becomes the first major environmental work to develop the centrality and continuity of women’s involvement in urban pollution issues.
The examples discussed here point to the existence of an ongoing, continuous field of women’s activism in environmental endeavors from the late nineteenth century to the present. Gaps still exist, of course, but both environmental historians and women’s historians have begun to document activism and attitudes from the nineteenth century through the twentieth. One of the largest areas of contention involves the nature of women’s activism or involvement. Merchant, Hoy and Stradling assert that women’s involvement with environmental issues remained conservative, since they failed to challenge societal norms of capitalism or patriarchy. Other authors, including Norwood, Riley and Dunlap, see women’s activism as radical within the context of the times in which they lived. Although many may not have directly countered ideas of male domination, their language and actions provided additional avenues for women in many eras.
Interestingly, the language used by many female environmental reformers throughout several periods may demonstrate a link to other reform activism by women. A fairly detailed body of literature has developed in women’s history regarding women’s use of “maternalist” rhetoric as a strategy for achieving change. Most of this literature has focused on women’s involvement in creating and organizing welfare legislation, especially leading up to the Social Security Act of 1935. The most well known books include those by Robyn Muncy, Linda Gordon and Theda Skocpol.73 Muncy examines women’s influence in the growth of social work in America during the Progressive Era, including the founding of the Children’s Bureau. Muncy finds that as social work gradually became professionalized, men took over, influencing welfare goals and achievements. Building on Muncy’s work, Linda Gordon presents a gendered analysis of the development of the history of welfare reforms in the United States in her book Pitied But Not Entitled. She demonstrates that programs like the Social Security Act of 1935 emerged with incredibly stratified systems of benefits and included not only gender biases, but also class and racial prejudices. Each of these authors demonstrates that women used a language focused on their roles as women and mothers to influence reform. Perhaps one of the best known of the maternalist debate is Theda Skocpol’s Protecting Soldiers and Mothers. Skocpol details the historical background of federal pensions, originating with post Civil War attempts with mothers and military veterans. While significant limitations exist in this work, Skocpol also details the use of maternalism as a strategy for women’s activism in the area of welfare reform.
As with ecofeminism, much argument within the maternalism field has centered on definitions. This debate, echoing themes within environmental history, focuses on the use of maternalism in relation to feminism. Molly Ladd-Taylor argues for a narrow definition of maternalism, stating that she does “not believe that maternalists can properly be called feminists. Maternalists were wedded to an ideology rooted in the nineteenth-century doctrine of separate spheres and to a presumption of women’s economic and social dependence on men.”74 Eileen Boris, on the other hand, presents a case for a more flexible definition, stating that the terms of discourse by maternalist women varied over time, and should not be viewed as static. In her research on industrial homework, Boris found that women’s emphases varied over time in response to changing situations. She states that “the meaning of maternalism and its appropriateness depends on which women, on their standpoint, or position.”75
Another ongoing debate within the maternalist field involves racial issues. Gwendolyn Mink argues for the racial exclusiveness of maternalism, stating that white women used the debate to the detriment of black women.76 Several historians argue instead that black women as well as white women used maternalism for their own gains. For example, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn traces the development of black women’s activism from “mother power” to activism in civil rights areas by using the black church as an example of a settlement house.77 Around the turn of the century with the disfranchisement of black men, black women switched their attention from maternalist rhetoric towards fighting racism and discrimination. Eileen Boris’s research indicates that African-American women used maternalism rhetoric to demand better jobs during World War II.78
Lisa Brush presents a compelling viewpoint in her article, “Love, Toil, and Trouble: Motherhood and Feminist Politics.”79 In positing that “maternalism is feminism for hard times,” Brush perhaps provides a logical rationale for the continuing use of maternalism, especially within women’s activism regarding the environment by many women even after the gains of the second wave women’s movement.80 Brush defines maternalism as
arguments that support women’s personhood and claims to integrity, autonomy, dignity, security, and political voice on the basis of what Molly Ladd-Taylor calls mother-work. Maternalists claim entitlement to citizenship rights and benefits on the basis of mother-work as a source of women’s political personhood. The argument is that mother-work involves meeting children’s needs for protection, nurturance, and moral training. To protect, nurture, and train children, mothers must have access to the conditions that will allow them to flourish as persons: bodily integrity, moral autonomy, material security, retalional integrity, and political efficacy.81
Environmental safety could very easily be added to Brush’s definition.
Documented reasons for women’s involvement in environmentalism tie in with the well-developed debate within women’s history regarding maternalism. Most case studies, including those from the early Progressive era through toxics organizing of the 1980s, stress women’s involvement as an extension of their role as mothers and protectors of home and community. Women’s activism results because they see the damage of the environment, and yet have little access to formal (male-dominated) governmental structures to change. Elaine Wellin reveals layers of concern visible in other periods. Her view of women being close to the effects of environmentalism, but marginalized in their search for results may cross time boundaries to describe women’s activism throughout the century. No published studies, however, have explicitly linked women’s environmentalism with the maternalism debate within women’s history.
The literature of women’s activism in the environment joins two fields, environmental history and women’s history, that seem to speak different languages. Each comments almost incidentally on the other, seemingly in a vacuum, without connections to the others’ literature. Yet, rich possibilities for such connections exist, including the integration of the maternalism debate. Environmental historians could also benefit from women’s history, specifically when dealing with minority women. Through accounts by women’s historians, women of color have also been closely connected to environmental issues, beginning in the nineteenth century. Taken as a whole, scholarship in these disparate fields suggests a fertile field for research. Women’s environmental concern certainly appears long-standing, in both the areas of conservation and preservation as well as urban reform. This continuity demands a comprehensive look at women’s environmental activism and attitudes, integrating the growing fields of women’s history and environmental history.
1. In a growing and diverse field, this historiography can only be considered preliminary at best. I have limited this brief examination of women and the environment in several ways. I have focused solely on American women, and I specifically omitted the large literature by both women’s historians and (to a lesser degree) environmental historians regarding women’s involvement in workplace-related environmental hazards. Although not comprehensive, I hope that this study stimulates discussion and additional studies of the literature by others. I would like to thank Dr. Landon Storrs, at the University of Houston, for her comments on an earlier version of this work. Parts of this historiography appeared in my dissertation, “Pink and Green: A Comparative Study of Black and White Women’s Environmental Activism in the Twentieth Century” (Ph.D. diss., University of Houston, 2000).
2. For a summary of some of these works, see, for example, Samuel P. Hays, “Role of Urbanization in Environmental History,” Explorations in Environmental History (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1998), 90-91.
3. Among those suggesting that no difference exists between the sexes: G. D. Lowe, T.K. Pinhey and M.D. Grimes, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: New Evidence from National Surveys,” Pacific Sociological Review 23 (1980): 423-445; L.N. Tognacci, R.H. Weigel, M.F. Wideen and D.T.A. Vernon, “Environmental Quality: How Universal is Public Concern?”, Environment and Behavior 4 (1972): 73-86; one study finding men more environmentally concerned: J. McEvoy, III, “The American Concern with the Environment,” in W.R. Burch, Jr., N.H. Cheek, Jr. and L. Taylor, eds., Social Behavior, Natural Resources, and the Environment (New York: Harper & Row, 1972); and those finding women more interested E.M. Passino and J.W. Lounsbury, “Sex Differences in Opposition To and Support For Construction of a Proposed Nuclear Power Plant,” in L.M. Ward, S. Coren, A. Gruft and J.B. Collins, eds., The Behavioral Basis of Design, Book I (Stroudsburg, Pa.: Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, 1976).
4. Jan R. McStay and Riley E. Dunlap, “Male-Female Differences in Concern for Environmental Quality,” International Journal of Women’s Studies 16/4 (September/October 1983): 291-301.
5. McStay and Dunlap, 297.
[6. Lawrence C. Hamilton, “Concern About Toxic Wastes: Three Demographic Predictors,” Sociological Perspectives 28 (1985): 463-486; Lawrence C. Hamilton, “Who Cares About Water Pollution? Opinions in a Small-Town Crisis,” Sociological Inquiry 28 (1985): 170-181.
7. T. Jean Blocker and Douglas Lee Eckberg, “Environmental Issues as Women’s Issues: General Concerns and Local Hazards,” Social Science Quarterly 70/3 (September, 1989): 586-593.
8. Blocker and Eckberg, 591.
9. Françiose D’Eaubonne, Le Feminisme ou la mort (Paris: Pierre Horay, 1976).
10. In addition to d’Eaubonne’s work, other scholarship enhanced the knowledge of the connection between women and nature in the 1970s. Some of the more important of these include Rosemary Ruether, New Woman, New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation (New York: Seabury Press, 1975); Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978); and Susan Griffin Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (New York: Harper & Row, 1978). For collections of articles on ecofeminism, see Judith Plant, ed., Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism (Philadelphia: New Society Press, 1989); Irene Diamond and Gloria Feiman Orenstein, eds., Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990); Karen J. Warren, ed., Ecological Feminist Philosophies (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1996); Greta Gaard, Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993); Karen J. Warren, ed., Ecological Feminist Philosophies (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1996); John P. Herron and Andrew G. Kirk, eds., Human/Nature: Biology, Culture, and Environmental History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999) also contains some ecofeminist perspectives.
11. Carolyn Merchant, “Ecofeminism,” Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (New York: Routledge, 1992), 183-210.
12. Merchant, “Ecofeminism,” 209.
13. Barbara Epstein, “Ecofeminism and Grass-roots Environmentalism in the United States,” in Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice, Richard Hofrichter, ed. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1993), 145.
14. Carolyn Merchant, on the other hand, inserts an additional two categories of ecofeminism, liberal and socialist, standing politically to the right and left respectively of Plumwood’s categories. Liberal ecofeminists, Merchant explains, see environmental problems as resulting from industrialization and inadequate regulation. Growing out of the feminism of the early 1960s, liberals, in addition, believe women “can transcend the social stigma of their biology and join men in the cultural project of environmental conservation” (Merchant, “Ecofeminism,” 189). Described by Merchant as a “feminist transformation of social ecology,” socialist ecofeminists accept neither patriarchy nor capitalism, but instead assert a critique of the capitalistic relationships between production, reproduction and ecology (Merchant, “Ecofeminism,” 195).
15. Val Plumwood, “Feminism and Ecofeminism: Beyond the Dualistic Assumptions of Women, Men and Nature,” The Ecologist 22/1 (January/February, 1992): 10.
16. Charlene Spretnak, “Toward An Ecofeminist Spirituality,” in Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, Judith Plant, ed. (Philadelphia: New Society Press, 1989).
17. Plumwood, 10.
18. See also the excellent Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989). This remains one of the few works to examine pre-nineteenth century American women’s relationship with the environment.
19. Janet Biehl, Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1991).
20. Biehl, 3.
21. Biehl, 2.
22. Gwyn Kirk, “Ecofeminism and Chicano Environmental Struggles: Bridges Across Gender and Race,” in Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin, ed. by Devon G. Peña (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988), 177-200; Malia Davis, in Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin, ed. by Devon G. Peña (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988), 201-231. Laura Pulido contributed to the discussion of Chicanos and environmentalism with Environmentalism and Economic Justice: Two Chicano Struggles in the Southwest (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996).
23. Kirk, 188.
24. Davis, 225.
25. Most of the “classic” works in the field ignore gender or fail to take it into account. See, for example, Samuel P. Hays, Beauty, Health and Permanence. Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, 2nd Ed (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 3rd Ed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967); and Alfred Runte, National Parks: The American Experience, 3rd ed. (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1987). With a lack of a focus on women, many other works present environmentalism as elitist and male-centered. See, for example Robert C. Paehlke, Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989); Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization (Boston: Little, Brown, 1990); Martin W. Lewis, Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992); and Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997).
26. Caroline L. Hunt, The Life of Ellen H. Richards, 1842-1911 (Washington, D.C.: American Home Economics Association, 1958).
27. Mary Hawkins, “Foreword to the Anniversary Edition,” in Caroline L. Hunt, The Life of Ellen H. Richards, 1842-1911 (Washington, D.C.: American Home Economics Association, 1958), np.
28. Robert Clarke, Ellen Swallow: The Woman Who Founded Ecology (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1973).
29. Clarke, 4.
30. Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997).
31. Glenda Riley provides an excellent list of biographies on female conservationists in her notes to Women and Nature: Saving the “Wild” West (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1999), 198. For additional sketches, see Marcia Myers Bonta, Women in the Field: America’s Pioneering Women Naturalists (College Station, Texas: Texas A&M Press, 1991) and Polly Welts Kaufman, National Parks and the Woman’s Voice: A History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996).
32. See, for example, Maureen A. Flanagan, “Gender and Urban Political Reform: The City Club and the Woman’s City Club of Chicago in the Progressive Era,” American Historical Review 95/4 (October 1990): 1032-1050; Maureen A. Flanagan, “The City Profitable, the City Livable: Environmental Policy, Gender, and Power in Chicago in the 1910s,” Journal of Urban History 22/2 (January 1996): 163-190; Flanagan discusses the distinctions between women’s and men’s visions for urban reform. Using their image of the city as an extension of the home, Flanagan sees women as pushing for more egalitarian reform to benefit poor as well as rich, and also pushing for municipal, rather than private, control of garbage pickup; Martin Melosi provides an overview of women’s involvement in sanitation issues in The Sanitary City, 183-186.
33. Suellen M. Hoy, “‘Municipal Housekeeping’: The Role of Women in Improving Urban Sanitation Practices, 1880-1917,” in Martin V. Melosi, ed. Pollution and Reform in American Cities, 1870-1930 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980), 173-198. Hoy extends on her work in Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
34. Hoy, “Municipal Housekeeping,” 174.
35. Hoy, “Municipal Housekeeping,” 194.
36. Hoy, “Municipal Housekeeping,” 177.
37. Nancy Tomes, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
38. Regina Markell Morantz, “Making Women Modern: Middle-Class Women and Health Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, in Women and Health in America, ed. by Judith Walzer Leavitt (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 349, quoted in Melosi, The Sanitary City, 185.
39. Carolyn Merchant, “Women of the Progressive Conservation Movement: 1900-1916,” Environmental Review 8 (Spring, 1984): 57-85.
40. Neither Merchant nor Hoy mention race (referring to a generic “woman” instead of the more accurate “white woman”). However, they clearly speak of upper and middle class white women, without mentioning any type of activism differences or similarities along class or race lines.
41. Merchant, “Women of the Progressive Conservation Movement,” 80.
42. Historian Linda Kerber, for example, on the other side of the issue from Hoy and Merchant, posits that women used the ideal of republican motherhood as a tool for power during America’s formative years. See Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1973).
43. David Stradling, Smokestacks and Progressives: Environmentalists, Engineers, and Air Quality in America, 1881-1951 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). One of the earliest efforts on smoke pollution is R. Dale Grinder, “The Battle for Clean Air: The Smoke Problem in Post-Civil War America,” in Pollution and Reform in American Cities, 1870-1930, Martin V. Melosi, ed. (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1980), 181-203; Angela Gugliotta describes women’s activism against smoke in Pittsburgh during the Progressive Era. She notes that early smoke abatement efforts were led independently by both women’s clubs and working class men. Women’s activism proved highly instrumental in changing ideas about smoke, especially in making what had been considered mere amenities into necessities. Angela Gugliotta, “Class, Gender, and Coal Smoke: Gender Ideology and Environmental Injustice in Pittsburgh, 1868-1914,”Environmental History 5/2 (April 2000): 165-193.
44. For women’s involvement in other Progressive Era pollution issues, see, for example, Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City and Raymond W. Smilor, “Toward an Environmental Perspective: The Anti-Noise Campaign, 1893-1932,” in Pollution and Reform in American Cities, 1870-1930, Melosi, ed. (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1980), 135-151.
45. Thomas R. Dunlap, Saving America’s Wildlife: Ecology and the American Mind, 1850-1990 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988).
46. Dunlap, 13.
47. Dunlap, 92-97.
48. Joel Tarr, The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Pollution in Historical Perspective (Akron, Ohio: The University of Ohio Press, 1996).
49. Tarr, 237 [emphasis added].
50. Nash, 34.
51. Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985), 74-75.
52. Other scholars concur in stressing that environmental beliefs are not monolithic, but vary across race and ethnicity. Cynthia Hamilton, for example, focuses on industrialism as the main cause of black environmentalism. Blacks focus on urban, human-centered issues because they are more frequently confronted with the dirtiest side of industry. Barbara Deutsch Lynch examined Latinos’ construction of the environment to demonstrate that they have a very different “ideal” than Anglos. Latinos envision “peopled and productive” areas as ideal, while whites turn toward parks, forests or wilderness. (Cynthia Hamilton, “Coping With Industrial Exploitation,” in Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots, Robert D. Bullard, ed. (Boston: South End Press 1993), 63-76; and Barbara Deutsch Lynch, “The Garden and the Sea: U.S. Latino Environmental Discourse and Mainstream Environmentalism,” Social Problems 40 (February 1993): 108-118.
53. Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).
54. Gilmore, 168-175.
55. Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989), 62.
56. For additional examples of black women organizing for environmental reforms, see Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993); and Susan L. Smith, Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women’s Health Activism in America, 1890-1950 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995). Smith in particular sees a continuous involvement by black women in health issues (many of these involve some type of environmental reform) in the time period covered by her book.
57. For examples of case studies of current women’s involvement, see Gabriel Gutierrez, “Mothers of East Los Angeles Strike Back,” in Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color, Robert D. Bullard, ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), 220-233; Cynthia Hamilton, “Women, Home, and Community: The Struggle in an Urban Environment”; Julia Scofield Russell, “The Evolution of an Ecofeminist”; and Rachel L. Bagby, “Daughters of Growing Things”; all in Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein, eds. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990); Anne Witte Garland, Women Activists: Challenging the Abuse of Power (New York: The Feminist Press, 1988). Many of the sources in the following footnote also contain examples and case studies of women’s activism.
Some environmental justice works adopt more complicated perspectives to understand the environmental problems facing minorities and the poor. Andrew Hurley, in Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), has provided perhaps the most historical perspective of race and environment to date. Hurley also includes information about Gary’s female reform contingent. Rather than laying the blame on simple racism, Hurley examines multiple complicated causes of levels of environmental hazards between groups, finding that minorities bear the highest burden. Racism played a part in Gary, but the capitalistic system created and maintained differences between groups. In Uproar at Dancing Rabbit Creek, journalist Colin Crawford provides a fascinating, complicated account of one Mississippi community’s struggle over the siting of a giant landfill. Colin Crawford, Uproar at Dancing Rabbit Creek: Battling Over Race, Class, and the Environment (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996). In this area still dominated by the planter elite, some blacks joined with poor whites to fight for the landfill, hoping for additional jobs. The opposition, led by Martha Blackwell, included other blacks in the area, as well as a local Native American tribe, ultimately proved successful. Hurley’s and Crawford’s stories provide glimpses into the conflict-ridden, difficult struggles around environmental issues missing from much of the environmental justice literature.
59. Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988).
60. Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
61. Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).
62. Celene Krauss, “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests,” in Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice, Richard Hofrichter, ed. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1993), 107-117.
63. Celene Krauss, “Women and Toxic Waste Protests: Race, Class and Gender as Resources of Resistance,” Qualitative Sociology 16/3 (Fall, 1993): 247-262. Her article “Women of Color on the Front Line,” in Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color, Robert D. Bullard, ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), contains an almost identical treatment.
64. Very little work has been done on Native American or Asian women, even including the environmental justice literature. Although not directly discussing the environment, Carol Berkin’s First Generations: Women in Colonial America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996), 52-78 provides a basic overview of Native American women’s lives in the colonial period. In general, work on Native Americans and the environment remains limited primarily to the pre-contact and colonial period. See, for example, William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang,1983); Alfred Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Co., 1972); Calvin Martin, Keepers of the Game: Indian-Animal Relationships and the Fur Trade (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978); and Richard White, Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983).
65. Elaine S. Wellin, “Women in the Grassroots Movement for Environmental Jusice: A Gendered Analyis” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1996).
66. Other dissertations have also begun to deal with issues of gender, race, class and the environment. See, for example, Sondra Yvonne Millner, “Free Grace in the Wilderness: An Aesthetic Analysis of Land and Space in African American Culture in the Narratives of Henry Bibb, Harriot Jacobs and Josiah Benson” (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1994); Elizabeth D. Blum, “Pink and Green: A Comparative Study of Black and White Women’s Environmental Activism in the Twentieth Century” (Ph.D. diss., University of Houston, 2000); and M. Karen Powers-Stubbs, “The Nature of Language: Rhetorics of Environmental (In)justice” (Ph.D. diss., Miami University, 1999). See also, Glenda Riley’s Women and Nature, 199.
67. Vera Norwood, Made From This Earth: American Women and Nature (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993).
68. Glenda Riley, Women and Nature: Saving the “Wild” West (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
69. Riley, xiii.
70. Riley, xvi.
71. Gottlieb, 210 [emphasis in original].
72. Gottlieb, 211.
73. Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of the Welfare State (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1994); Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Theda Skocpol, Protecting Mothers and Soldiers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the U.S (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992).
74. Molly Ladd-Taylor, “Toward Defining Maternalism in U.S. History,” in “Maternalism as a Paradigm,” Journal of Women’s History 5/2 (Fall, 1993): 110.
75. Eileen Boris, “What About the Working Mothers?” In “Maternalism as a Paradigm,” Journal of Women’s History 5/2 (Fall, 1993): 95-131.
76. Gwendolyn Mink, The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917-1942 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995).
77. Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Black Neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement, 1890-1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).
78. Boris, 107; For a discussion of maternalism involving black, white and Hispanic women, see, Sandra Schackel, Social Housekeepers: Women and Public Policy in New Mexico, 1920-1940 (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1992).
79. Lisa Brush, “Love, Toil, and Trouble: Motherhood and Feminist Politics,” Signs 21 (Winter 1996): 429-454.
80. Brush, 430.
81. Brush, 430.
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