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Aspen Public Radio is proud to present select lectures, discussions, and conversations from area events and festivals, thanks to a remarkable collection of community partners. Click here to view the full archive. Events are recorded at no cost to the partner and archived here online; select recordings are broadcast on Aspen Public Radio Sunday nights at 7 p.m.

Explore Booksellers: The Story of a Pioneering Woman Environmentalist

This event was recorded on July 13, 2023 at Explore Booksellers, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.

Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists is the award-winning biography of the woman (1877-1962) who achieved many of America’s most important conservation victories of the mid-20th century. These included the establishment of Olympic National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Author Dyana Z. Furmansky had access to Edge’s personal papers and conducted interviews with family members and associates for her book.

The New York socialite and suffragist burst onto the conservation scene in 1929. Her implacable personality and famous activism earned Edge such descriptions as “Joan of Arc” and “the most honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation.” Though considered a heroic trailblazer by many in her day, Edge’s methods also garnered decades of condemnation by her male peers who represented the conservation organizations that she challenged at every turn: The U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, National Audubon Society, and federal and state wildlife protection agencies. It is largely due to the conservation establishment’s enduring hostility to Edge that she was written out of history until the publication of this biography.

Taken together, Edge’s triumphs form a crucial link between the eras defined by John Muir and Rachel Carson. She saved a portion of Yosemite National Park that Muir could not, and as an early critic of the indiscriminate use of toxins and pesticides, Edge reported evidence about the dangers of DDT fourteen years before Carson's Silent Spring was published; Carson used migration data collected by Edge’s Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to make the case against DDT. Finally, Rosalie Edge’s campaigns sparked reforms at the Audubon Society and Sierra Club, and directly inspired the founders of the Wilderness Society, Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund. Filled with surprising insights into a tumultuous period in American conservation, this is the riveting life story of the woman who shaped the modern environmental movement.