Book Review: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

By Olivia Dorothy

While Rachel Carson may be the most famous environmental author she was not the first nor the last woman to stand up to male-dominated industries and call out serious environmental and public health threats.

This month’s read, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters by Robert Musil, is an excellent biographical compilation of the many women who influenced Rachel Carson’s work and the women who were influenced by her.

The book starts with Susan Fenimore Cooper, who published Rural Hours in 1850. Rural Hours is a personal journal of the seasons, day by day, in upstate New York and includes many detailed descriptions of birds, flowers, trees and weather. The book ends with Theo Colborn, who most recently published Our Stolen Future on endocrine disruptors in the environment in 1996. In her book, Colborn reveals the dangers posed by endocrine disrupting compounds, many of which are commonly found in plastic. While Colborn’s work is meticulously researched, the threats and implications of the book are still being debated today, much like the work of Carson herself, which is still subject to ridicule by certain interest groups.

Other authors highlighted in Rachel Carson and Her Sisters include Ellen Swallow Richards and Dr. Alice Hamilton, who were trailblazers for women scientists and doctors. And Musil also emphasized the importance of publications that began fostering “ecological empathy” in the mid-century, whose authors include the still popular Terry Tempest Williams.

Reading Rachel Carson and Her Sisters will add to your own list of “must reads” while providing a comprehensive overview of the feminine activists who have shaped the environmental movements of today.

Please join our discussion on March 21, 2016 at 5:45PM at the Moline Public Library, Bronze Room.

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