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Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy

The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists

Dyana Z. Furmansky

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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pp. xi-xii

There's so much history that it has to get written in shorthand—we take up the civil rights movement and invariably end up talking about Martin Luther King Jr. There's nothing wrong with that, except that it leads us to believe he sprang full-blown on the scene, instead of emerging, invariably, from a tradition...

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pp. xiii-xvii

I could not have dreamed of writing this book had I not been given two things: first, a powerful suggestion, and second, a suitcase packed with old letters. The suggestion came from the late T. H. Watkins, my friend, coauthor, and editor at American Heritage and Wilderness. Watkins discovered Rosalie Edge's Emergency Conservation Committee (ECC) papers in...

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pp. 1-6

The widow of Charles Noel Edge was sitting in the swank lobby of the Robert Driscoll Hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas, when she was spotted by staff members of the National Audubon Society. The sighting on November 12, 1962, caused a muffled stir, as if a rare bird had been identified. Mrs. Edge—Rosalie, as her few...


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1. Noblest Girl

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pp. 9-32

When Rosalie Edge spoke of her late start in conservation work, she mentioned Central Park, which she could see from her apartment on Fifth Avenue. In the 1850s landscape architects Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had designed the beloved New York greensward to transform eight hundred acres...

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2. Wife of Charles Noel Edge

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pp. 33-51

For their honeymoon, Charles Edge had reserved a suite at the elegant Fujiya Hotel, nestled in the wooded mountains on Mount Fuji's perimeter. The Fujiya, with its natural hot springs and odd blend of Victorian and traditional Japanese architecture, was the first hotel in Japan built for Western tourists, in 1878. Of greater...

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3. First Awakening

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pp. 52-76

These days she did not paddle aft er Charlie as he frantically sought railroad business in Asian countries other than China, which in 1911 was rapidly sliding toward anarchy. Rosalie usually stayed behind in paradisal seclusion at either the famous Raffles Hotel or another British outpost of luxury. She preferred to...


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4. Amateur and Dilettante

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pp. 79-87

For the next few weeks following her flight from Parsonage Point, Rosalie lived "mechanically," alternating between "dumb and stunned" existence to searing pain that ripped through her again, leaving her nerves dreadfully alert. The lingering ache in her arm left her with a physical sensation reminding her of...

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5. Like a Man

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pp. 88-113

In August 1929 a stack of mail was waiting for fifty-two-year-old Rosalie Edge at her hotel in Paris, where she and the children were ending their customary summer tour of the Continent. A bigger envelope bore a return address she did not recognize. Inside was a densely printed sixteen-page pamphlet titled in...

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6. A Common Scold [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 114-150

Truly, she was giving herself too little credit and Van Name too much. Had she not grown up in close proximity to a scientific library in her father's study that was one of the city's finest? Had not she accompanied her grandmother on visits to favorite trees and joined the Grace Church pastor in botanizing? Had...

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7. Sweet Reasonableness

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pp. 151-166

In the fall of 1927, George Miksch Sutton, a bird artist and ornithologist from Pennsylvania, accompanied the state's game protector, Archie Smith, to a mountain ridge on the county line between Berks and Schuylkill, hoping to see the impressive hawk migration that had been rumored for several years. The...

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8. M. R. Edge, Lessee

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pp. 167-183

With so many emergencies flying about her in the spring of 1934, Rosalie Edge allowed herself to believe that the NASS was establishing the hawk sanctuary in Pennsylvania. About a month aft er the dust storm, her understanding of nature's interconnections was particularly keen, and she called Richard Pough for...


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9. Canadian Spy

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pp. 187-217

Relying on fifteen-cent admission fees to the Lookout and small contributions, the sanctuary took hold. Hawk Mountain became the platform on which Rosalie Edge stood to deliver her blistering conservation messages and was the place that best represented what an amateur nature lover could do. The...

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10. Hawk of Mercy

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pp. 218-234

Rosalie Edge's simultaneous associations with the ECC, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, and the ongoing campaign to end federally funded poisoning gave her a position of unprecedented visibility for a woman in the conservation movement. Indeed, the old wildlife crusader...

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11. Hellcat

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pp. 235-245

Even in the grim weeks before and aft er Pearl Harbor, Rosalie Edge could be found at her post on the conservation front. The nation was in no position to consider new national parks, but she continued her fight for unpopular causes of nature. At the end of 1941, Edge went to a congressional hearing to oppose the...

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12. Implacable

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pp. 246-252

Friends urged Rosalie Edge to write her memoirs, and at the age of seventy-four she began to compose them, ultimately completing 230 pages of manuscript, which she called "Good Companions in Conservation: Annals of an Implacable Widow." The New Yorker article's opening characterization had evidently...

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pp. 253-254

The early twentieth-century conservation movement was an attempt to find ways of balancing resource demands without undue conflict. Rosalie Edge was one of the most forceful conservation activists who led the way by emphasizing the conflicts. For her they had to be faced because the protection of wildlife and the safeguarding of lovely places and unique forests were...


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pp. 255-285


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pp. 287-297


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pp. 299-312

E-ISBN-13: 9780820338965
E-ISBN-10: 0820338966
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820333410
Print-ISBN-10: 0820333417

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Conservationists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Suffragists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Edge, Rosalie, 1877-1962.
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