Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy – Book Review

Rosalie Edge Hawk of Mercy Book CoverA 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.

Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists, by Dyana Z. Furmansky, tells the story of Rosalie Edge, a socialite, estranged wife, mother, suffragette, activist, bird enthusiastic and conservationist.

Book Review

How and why did Rosalie Edge become a conservationist and activist? Her background doesn’t shout treehugger. Readers of Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy will learn about Edges’s life and events that led her to become a conservationist at age 52.

Born into a wealthy family in 1877, Rosalie spent her early childhood as the pampered outspoken favorite of her father. She was first exposed to nature while riding in a horse-drawn carriage through New York City’s Central Park where the social elite went to see and be seen.

Rosalie grew up during the last quarter of the 19th century, a time of rapid growth and industrial development. Millions of birds were being killed for fashion; feathers and entire stuffed birds adorned women’s hats. Birds of prey like bald eagles and hawks were reviled by farmers and killed for sport. Forests were managed as commodities. Women did not have the right to vote. They were expected to get married, have children, and manage their households or live quietly as spinsters.

Rosalie received her first taste of activism when she joined the fight for women’s voting rights. She learned about advocacy and running a campaign while working with the New York Woman Suffrage Party.

After reading a pamphlet entitled A Crisis in Conservation, Rosalie attended her first annual meeting of the National Audubon Society and thus began a long contentious relationship with the organization. She formed the Emergency Conservation Committee and through it conducted a formidable information campaign about bird preservation needs.

The annual slaughter of thousands of hawks for sport at a mountain in Pennsylvania, Kittatinny Ridge, caught Rosalie’s attention. She bought the land and founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary which became an international center for the conservation of birds of prey. It is perhaps her greatest achievement.

Olympic National Park in Washington, the Yosemite sugar pines in California, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all benefited from Rosalie’s involvement.

Rosalie’s efforts to improve the conservation efforts of organizations like the National Audubon Society and the U.S. Department of the Interior were often viewed negatively, but she was just ahead of her time. Nowadays these organizations and others embrace her interconnected approach to conservation.

The Bottom Line

Using Rosalie Edge’s personal papers, interviews with her children, and her own research, 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.

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Bird Day – Celebrate All Year

Although there are several Bird Days celebrated around the world, any day is a good day to celebrate birds.

Birds are beautiful, musical, important denizens of nature, fascinating to watch, and eat insect pests (they also eat my wildflower seeds). Oh, and they can fly.

Egret in Marsh - Photo: Author's Son AdamDuring our short wet time, egrets can be seen in the marshy areas. They are tall, bright white birds, elegant in flight and on the ground. There is no hiding for the egret. It seems to stand there and say, “I am proud to be me” or maybe “look at me, look at me”. The egret is my favorite bird. My son Adam took the egret photo for my website header and this one.

The First Bird Day

Professor Charles A. Babcock, Superintendent of Schools in Oil City, Pennsylvania, is credited with initiating the first Bird Day on May 4, 1894. His book, Bird Day: How to Prepare for It, published in 1901, shares the history of the Bird Day movement, value of birds, destruction of birds, and a study plan for school children.

Bird Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes - Library of CongressAt the time, bird feathers, skins, and sometimes entire bodies were used to ornament hats and other articles of clothing. Millions of birds were being killed for fashion and bird habit was being lost as more land was cleared for development.

In order to build upon student’s interest in learning about birds and sharing their observations, Professor Babcock introduced a study plan that began in January and culminated on Bird Day in May.

The founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, the Audubon Society, ornithologists, and other bird lovers supported and advocated for Bird Day.

National Bird Day

January 5, 2013, marked the 11th anniversary of National Bird Day, an initiative of Born Free USA, an animal welfare, and wildlife conservation organization. The purpose of National Bird Day is to inform the public and advocate for wild and pet bird welfare.

International Migratory Bird Day

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to educate people about migratory birds, their importance in the environment, hazards they face, and ways to protect them.

Life Cycles of Migratory Birds - Art by Barry Kent MacKay for Environment for the AmericasThe first IMBD was celebrated in 1993 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversaw the event from 1995 until 2007 when the nonprofit Environment for the Americas assumed responsibility for coordinating International Migratory Bird Day.

Generally, IMBD is celebrated the 2nd Saturday in May in the U.S. and Canada, and the 2nd Saturday in October in Mexico, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean.

IMBD events are hosted by bird clubs, local, state, and national parks, schools, zoos, and community groups. Events range from bird walks to education programs, to festivals. In 2012, there were over 500 registered events.

World Migratory Bird Day

To build on the success of International Migratory Bird Day, mostly observed in the Americas, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was created for the rest of the world in 2006 by the Secretariat of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

World Migratory Bird Day is observed the 2nd weekend in May. In 2012, more than 250 events were registered in 81 countries around the world.

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