American Women Afield
Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists
Natural History - Women's Studies
6 x 9, 272 pp.
25 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 02/01/1995
Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environment Series
  cloth
Price:        $35.00 s

978-0-89096-633-4
  paper
Price:        $16.95

978-0-89096-634-1

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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American Women Afield

Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists

Edited by Marcia Myers Bonta

Armed with hand lenses and opera glasses, traveling on foot, by buggy, or model T, they explored thousands of miles of deserts, forests, beaches, and jungles. They were pioneering women naturalists who observed, studied, and experimented, then returned to write up their findings. What resulted were exquisitely written and scientifically accurate accounts of their explorations into natural science--a field long dominated by men.

Marcia Myers Bonta has collected the most charming and sensitive writings of twenty-five women naturalists of the late nineteenth through early twentieth centuries and supplemented them with well-researched biographical profiles. From Susan Fenimore Cooper's early warnings about the profligate use of natural resources to Mary Treat's tenacious defense of her scientific discoveries, from Alice Eastwood's defiance of convention and Caroline Dormon's, Lucy Braun's, and Rachel Carson's impassioned pleas to save the earth, American Women Afield catalogs the determination and devotion of these early scientists and acknowledges their invaluable contributions to ornithology, entomology, botany, agrostology, and ecology.

Each excerpt in this book reveals the important role these women played not only as writers but as popularizers of nature study at a time when very little literature on this subject was available to the general public. Whether scientist or generalist, the reader will discover insights into their methods of field work as they tame wasps, camp out in jungles, climb unnamed mountaintops, or sit patiently in the woods for hours.

Written as a companion book to Bonta's earlier published Women in the Field: America's Pioneering Women Naturalists, American Women Afield adds an additional dimension to female scientific history by presenting the authors' own words. Luckily for the reader, Bonta has scoured libraries, museums, and private collections to uncover letters, out-of-print journal articles, field notes, and selected book chapters from the recesses of academia. Each selection is unique in style, tone, and subject and clearly shows not only the authors' love of nature but their desire to communicate that love to others.

American Women Afield is a charming, informative, and revealing account of pioneering women--mentors whose lives have been forgotten for far too long.

Marcia Myers Bonta is the author of five other books on nature and natural history, including Women in the Field published by Texas A&M University Press. She has published over 200 nature-oriented articles in such state and national magazines as Birder's World, Living Bird, Bird Watcher's Digest, and American Horticulturist. She also writes a column on Pennsylvania natural areas for Pennsylvania Wildlife and a monthly column for Pennsylvania Game News.

What Readers Are Saying:

" 25 women whose writing is as noteworthy for its scientific insight as for its feminine perspective. . . . Cooper's Rural Hours and Treat's Home Studies in Nature, both excerpted here, preserve in beautifully written passages glimpses of many plants and birds long since extinct. . . . Bonta includes biographical entries and bibliographies for each author, ensuring that naturalists for years to come may learn something of their forgotten heritage." --Publishers Weekly

"Writing for popular as well as scholarly magazines, these naturalists were instrumental in raising environmental consciousness and alerting people to the importance of conservation.” --Booklist

"Excerpts from the writings of 25 women field naturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries that emphasize how and why they did their fieldwork, their concern for conservation issues long before such issues became popular, and their ability to write entertainingly about their work and their love of nature. . . . This book will appeal to natural scientists and backyard observers of nature as well as to all who enjoy the company of these courageous feminists." --Library Journal

"If understood and protected, nature can ensure a comfortable environment. Both of Bonta's books will encourage an understanding of important elements of this reality.” --Jack DeForest

"Most scientists would concur that humor is another essential element in research. Wit shines through many of the contributions, notably Katharine Dooris Sharp's essay on the tribulations of women botanists. . . . for the general reader, American Women Afield offers a rare chance to learn about women's responses to nature in their own voices." --Audubon Naturalist News

" A distinct contribution to the growing body of literature on women scientists.” --Choice

"As a celebration of the interconnection between women and nature, and of women who pioneered in the field, this is an important and fascinating read." --WomanSource Catalog and Review

"This work would be sueful for older students doing biographical research. In general, it is scholarly, interesting and very well written. . . . The excerpts that [Bonta] has chosen are wonderful.” --Appraisal

" Lively, informative, and carefully assembled. . . . The book's most important qualities are its readability and wide audience appeal. There is a great need to bring back historical literature of this kind. With the current emphasis planced on specialization in the life sciences by most academic institutions, few people will have ever investigated the significant works which naturalists and nature writers generated almost a century ago. Information, perhaps essential to our understanding of ecology, conservation, and environmental change, is needlessly collecting dust. Indeed, it's time to re-evaluate the older contributions afield.” --Canadian Field-Naturalist

" A wonderful glimpse into the lives and writings of twenty-five women naturalists. . . . This collection provides fertile terrain for exploration." --Western American Literature

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