Famous Person: Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Related Topics:The Everglades, The Water Cycle, Conservation, Ecosystems, National Parks.
Grade Level: 4th-6th
Author: Georgiann Smith

Marjory Stoneman Douglas



In 1975, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was named Conservationist of the year by the Florida Audubon Society for more than 60 years of dedicated work of informing people of the importance of the Florida Everglades and also for her efforts to conserve, protect and restore the Everglades. She was awarded with the same honor by the Florida Wildlife Federation a year later. For Marjory Stoneman Douglas, though, the public's concern about the threatened Everglades' ecosystem was the best reward.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born on April 7, 1890. When Marjory was four, she went with her parents on a trip to Florida. She would always remember "the marvelous light, the wonderful white tropic light." Marjory had a rough childhood in which she moved often from state to state in order for her father to find work. Her parents divorced and she spent most of her childhood with her mother. To escape her troubled household she would read. She loved books and also began to write stories of her own.

In the fall of 1908, Marjory left home to attend Wellesley College, a women's college near Boston. She quickly took an interest in continuing her writing and found a new interest in public speaking. In 1911, during her third year at Wellesley, Marjory and some of her friends formed a club to support the voting rights of women. (Until 1920, only men could vote.) When asked why she formed the club Marjory explained, "You have to stand up for some things in this world."

Shortly after Marjory graduated from Wellesley in 1912, her mother died from cancer. Marjory didn't know what she wanted to do to support herself. She started working in a department store but did not enjoy it. After a brief troubled marriage and a confusing time she decided at age 25 to move to Florida to live with her father and get to know him again.

Marjory for once felt completely at home in Florida with her father and his wife. Her father had moved to Miami after a failed attempt to set up a law practice in Orlando. He started a paper called The Herald in 1910 and it wasn't long after Marjory moved in with her father that she started working for the Herald as a reporter. Douglas wrote hundreds of articles about the people, places, and events that were shaping Florida during the early 1900s. At this time, south Florida was still a largely undeveloped area.

Florida became a state in 1845 and almost immediately people began proposing to drain the Everglades. In 1848, a government report said that draining the Everglades would be easy, and there would be no bad effect. Canals, and dams were dug to control seasonal flooding. Farmers grew vegetables in the rich soil of the drained land, Ranchers had their cattle graze on the dry land, and new railways lines were constructed to connect communities throughout south Florida. But the ecosystem of the Everglades was not suited for either farming or ranching. The natural cycle of dry and wet seasons brought a devastating series of droughts and floods. These had always been a part of the south Florida environment yet the people demanded protection from the seasonal cycle. A huge dam was built to hold back the flood waters of Lake Okeechobee. A concrete network of canals was designed to bring water from the lake area to surrounding farmland in the dry season. Florida was becoming a booming area and more people came and more acres of the Everglades were cleared for farms, ranches, housing, roads, and railways. And more and more, the Everglades were dying.

Douglas was quickly drawn into the debate over the future of the Everglades. Many people, including Florida's governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, were in favor of draining the Everglades. But others, like Frank Stoneman, disagreed. Marjory's father, Frank Stoneman supported the preservation of the Glades, an idea that made the developers furious. He wanted this wilderness area to be left untouched. Her earliest notions about the Everglades came directly from her father. She became convinced that the Glades should be preserved in a natural state. She joined a committee to establish the area as a national park, which would give the Everglades the protection of the federal government.

Everglades National Park:
At last there was a public outcry for change. "Now that it was almost too late," wrote Marjory, "men began to realize that the water supply was never just a local problem. The Everglades were one vast unified harmonious whole in which the old subtle balance which was destroyed needed to be replaced or restored."(Bryant pg 57,1992) A new, scientific study of the region recommended that the lower area of the glades become a national park. Marjory Douglas had campaigned for almost 20 years to convince the government to establish such a park.

On December 6, 1947 President Harry S. Truman dedicated Everglades National Park. Although the boundaries of the park covered only a fraction of the Everglades ecosystem, most environmentalists were pleased to see at least a portion of the region protected. Marjory attended the open ceremonies of the dedication and that same year her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, was published after five years of dedication and research.

It was Douglas who first observed that the Everglades was part of a much larger ecosystem, a network of water, weather, and wildlife. And she saw that this network was a fragile and easily endangered one. "With less water in the Kissimmee River, there is less water for Lake Okeechobee, "she noted, "and less water to flow to the Everglades, and less water to evaporate into a rainfall to feed the river once again." "If the flow stops," she insisted, "it would mean the destruction of south Florida."

The "River of Grass" actually begins in central and southern Florida when rainwater flows into the Kissimmee river which used to wander for a hundred miles thought a wetland home for fish and water fowl. The Kissimmee River empties into Lake Okeechobee (the native American name for "big water"). From there Lake Okeechobee spills out in a vast sheet of wetland, a slow and massive flow of water that inches its way down the peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Everglades, as Douglas discovered, was a place of mystery, but is was the remarkable mysteries of nature that she wrote about. No place anywhere on the earth, Douglas reported, is like the Everglades:

They are unique in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life that they enclose. The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass. There are no other Everglades in the world," For hundreds of years the Glades was so mysterious that they seemed more like a fantasy than a geographic and historic fact.(Bryant pg 43, 1992)

Her book brought popular attention to the destruction and now restoration of the Everglades. Despite the popularity of her book, government effort to channel and dam the water supply of south Florida continued. In 1948, only one year after the Everglades National Part was established, the U,S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to one report, "built or improved 1,400 miles of canals and levees, complete with tide gates, floodgates, and pumps to suck water off the flooded farmland." In the 1960s, the Army Corps decided to "improve" the Kissimmee River changing it from a meandering river that wandered for a hundred miles to a 52 mile ditch (see Appendix). The "improved" water supply system was a disaster for the Everglades. Wildlife population was in danger of extinction as homes and nesting areas were destroyed. Plans for further development, including a large jetport threatened the future of the entire ecosystem. Joe Browder, a member of the National Audubon Society went to Marjory for help. He asked her to speak out against the jetport. Douglas now 78 years old founded a group called Friends of the Everglades. As president of the group, Marjory Douglas began a new career. She traveled throughout central and southern Florida making speeches. The jetport was never finished and in 1970 under pressure from environmentalists, the state government agreed to locate the project elsewhere. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, Marjory continued to speak for the preservation of the Everglades.

The Water Cycle:
The total amount of water on the earth remains essentially constant. Water changes form but is not created nor does it disappear. The water cycle has no starting point or ending point. Water in the atmosphere is called water vapor. The largest source of water vapor is evaporation from the oceans, especially those that lie in the warm parts of the world. When the water vapor is cooled in the air it is formed by condensation into water droplets. Storm clouds drift over the Florida peninsula with their store of precious rain.

The only source of water for the Everglades is rain. "Here the rain is everything," Marjory observed. The rains begin in late spring and increases in the late summer- as much as 10 or 12 inches of rain falls in a single day. The rain flows into the rivers and the rivers rise and begin their southward flow. The river banks overflow with the great increase in water and the area is then flooded. The floods are vital to the health of the Everglades ecosystem, nourishing the rich soil and providing wildlife with secure habitats. Without the summer floods, there would be no Everglades. In the dry season the water flow decreased below the grasses. This is the round of seasons, a cycle of dry and wet months. This balance provides a home for a diversity of plants, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, deer, wildcats and more. (See list of Everglades animals in appendix).


Bryant, Jennifer (1992). Marjory Stoneman Douglas:Voice of the Everglades. (An Earth Keepers Book). Frederick, MD: Twenty-First Century Books.

Douglas, Marjory Stoneman (1964). The Everglades: River of Grass. Milwaukee,WN: Gareth Stevens Publishing.

Miami Museum of Science (1995). Inter net Access:

Greer Consulting Services Inc. Inter net Access:

Daugs, Donald. (1994) The Comprehensive Water Education Book. Logan, UT: International Office for Water Education.

The Watercourse and Western Regional Environmental Education Council. (1995) Project Wet: Water Education for Teachers. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University.


A. After reading, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the Everglades, students will construct an accurate character sketch listing Marjory Stoneman Douglas's contributions and accomplishments.

B. Using Douglas as as example, students will identify, list and discuss the qualities that help individuals stand up for what they believe.

C After browsing through Marjory Stoneman Douglas's book and discussing what events lead to writing her book, the students will list the steps of writing a book that requires research and accurate information as in The Everglades: River of Grass. The students will also understand how literature influences people's opinions.

D. Students will accurately illustrate the water cycle and identify and label the three parts.

E. Students will demonstrate their understanding of first the definition of an Ecosystem, secondly the different types of ecosystems that are found in the Everglades, and finally the essential elements needed for an ecosystem to survive. Students will also be able to list several types of the animal and plant life that is found in the Everglades.

F. Students will create a collage, using pictures from magazines to represent the Everglades' ecosystems and the animals and plant life found there.

G. After participating in class debate between landowners and environmentalist, the students will understand that the issue of draining or not draining the Everglades is complex.

H. Students will understand the importance of conservation, identify the similarities and differences between their local national parks and Everglades National Park, and be able to develop personal goals to become active in preserving, conserving and restoring their environment.

Time Allotted: 7-8 class periods.

Resources Needed:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the Everglades by Jennifer Bryant.
The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Colored Picture of the water cycle. (May use black lined copy in Appendix)
Art paper, assorted colored pencils, crayons etc...
Misc magazines (National Geographic, American Fishing Magazine)
Large colored picture of the Florida Everglades.
Four sheets of poster board, four different colored markers.
Guess Speaker: Local Fish and Game Manager.


A. Jigsaw. First, divide the class into seven equal groups, assigning each group one chapter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the Everglades. Secondly, after each person in the group has read their groups assigned chapter have them discuss it with their group. Each member of the group will then prepare a 6 to 7 minute overview presentation on their chapter. Finally, form new groups made by combining one person from the original groups and have each member share there chapter. The class will then discuss Marjory Stoneman Douglas's life highlighting her contributions, accomplishments, and her personal qualities that effected her actions. Each student will then construct a one page biography on Marjory Stoneman Douglas's life.

B. Think-Pair-Share. Individually, have students think of what qualities are needed to be a person who makes a difference and stands up for what they believe. In pairs have the students share the qualities they came up with. As a class have students contribute to a large list of needed qualities. As a group have them decide on three or four qualities that they believe are the most important.

C. Mini-Lecture. Have students browse through Marjory Stoneman Douglas's book The Everglades: River of Grass. List and discuss the steps of writing a book, especially a factual book versus a creative fictional novel. Discuss with the students how and why her book influenced and changed the public's opinion of the Everglades.

D. Discussion and Illustration. Identify the three paths water takes through its various states-vapor, liquid, and solid-as it move throughout Earth's systems (oceans, atmosphere, ground, water, streams, etc). Have students discuss how the water cycle is important to the Everglades. Ask students why Marjory compared the water cycle to the circulatory system of the body. Students should then illustrate the water cycle by using art paper and colored pencils. The illustrations should have the three paths or steps clearly labeled.

E. Carousel (Brainstorming). Explain to your class what an ecosystem is and discuss what four essential things are needed for an ecosystem to survive. Place four sheets of poster board around the class with the words lake, river, ocean, and marshes on one of the four. Divide the class into four groups. Each group will start at one of the different areas with a colored marker. The students will then list plant life and animal life they believe are found in each ecosystem. Keep groups moving, giving two-three minute time limits at each area then rotating to a different area. After the four groups have each listed a plant or animal they think are found in that ecosystem discuss the similarities and differences of each ecosystem. What happens when one essential element is eliminated (see Appendix for list of animal and plant life found in the Everglades).

F. Art work (Collage).The students will create a collage of the Everglades using magazines, newspaper and drawings. The students may choose pictures of animals, plants, water source, etc.. found in the Florida Everglades then paste the pictures on poster board. The students should label the animals and plant life and water source (lake, marsh, river, swamp, etc...) on their collage. They may also draw the different animals and plants if insufficient magazine pictures are not available or if they prefer doing so. The four essential elements of food, shelter, water and space should be represented in each collage.

G. Role Playing -Debate. Divide the class into two sections. One section will be the landowner, developers, or those in favor of draining the Everglades. The other section will be the environmentalists or those in favor of preserving the Everglades. Each group will discuss their side's opinions and reasons then the two sections will be placed in pairs with one member from each section and debate against that partner. The students then return to their original group and discuss what they have learned about their opponents opinion. The sections will then select one person from their section to represent the opinions and views of the entire section to compete in the class debate(see Appendix).

H. Interview. Have students prepare possible questions they would like to ask their local Fish and Game manager about one of the areas national parks. Have students share their questions with class and decide on several prepared questions. Have guess speaker come in with a short prepared presentation on their duties and purposes at the national parks. After the guess speaker is finished open time up to prepared questions and impromptu questions. For follow up activity have students write down the similarities and differences between their area's national park and Everglades National Park. Finally discuss what they can do to preserve, conserve and restore areas around their neighborhood, town or state. Have students write several goals they can do in those areas. Their goals can be as simple as recycling their paper, cans, or picking up trash one Saturday at their local park.


A. The students will be assessed informally on their contributions to their group's discussion and each student's biography will also be graded for content and accuracy.

B. Observation of individuals responses will be assessed during the Think-Pair-Share activity.

C. The student's list of steps needed for writing a book will be assessed for content and accuracy. Their thoughts on how a book or literature affects the public's opinion will be assessed informally.

D. The students' illustration of the water cycle will be assessed for accuracy.

E. The Carousel posters will be assessed and each student will be graded for their participation in the brainstorming and the discussion.

F. The students will construct a collage by using magazine pictures, newspapers, and drawings to represent the Everglades. The different ecosystems, animal and plant life and the four essential elements of food, shelter, water and space should be represented in each collage to receive full credit.

G. Informal observations will be used to assess student's participation in the debate.

H. The students will be graded on the length and accuracy of their list of similarities and difference between Everglades National Park and their local parks. The student will also be responsible for listing several goals they will do sometime in the future to conserve, preserve, or restore their neighborhood. Completing the goal will not be a factor in their assessment.


Activity E. Ecosystem: The Everglades Basin contains many kinds of ecosystems including rivers, lakes, open ponds, sawgrass marches, willows, hardwood trees, and mangrove swamps.

The best known feature of the everglades is sawgrass, yet the water of the Everglades is filled with algae and bacteria that supports larger life forms such as insects, fish, mollocks, turtles, and snakes. These in turn supports such predators as wading birds, black bear and alligators.
Several animals are found in the Florida Everglades.

A description and list of specific habitat of the following animals are available over the internet:
American crocodile, box turtle, apple snail, tree snail, tree frog, white-tailed deer, snail kite, grey fox, red-shouldered hawk, green snake,butterfly, great blue heron, sand hill crane, spotted gar, otter, purple gallinules, dragonfly, crocodile, green sea turtle, key deer, manatee, brown pelican, diamondback rattle snake, Florida Panther, indigo snake, ahninga, water moccasin, barred owl coral snake, woodpecker, king snake, red rat snake, raccoon, wood stork, bald eagle, turkey vulture, alligator, snapping turtle, wood duck

Activity F. Debate
For draining the Everglades. If marshy acres of East Everglades were not drained, the people who owned land there would be able to build homes and businesses. The Everglades is just a breeding ground for mosquitoes and dangerous alligators.
Against draining the Everglades. The Everglades is a vital part of a unique ecosystem- a natural network of living things and their environment.


Everglades - a large, shallow, slow-moving river in south Florida. (Native Americans first called the Everglades Pahayokee or "Grassy Water")

Ecosystem- the network of relationships among living things and their environment.

Habitat- the area or place where one or more animal species can live within a given environment- must have four essential ingredients; food, shelter, water and space.

Saw Grass- type of grass with tough, sharp saw-like edges that can grow six feet or higher.

Precipitation-water falling, in a liquid or solid state, from the atmosphere to Earth (e.g., rain, snow).

Evaporation-the conversion of a liquid into a vapor usually through the application of heat energy; the opposite of condensation.

Condensation-the process by which a vapor becomes a liquid.

Conservation- the process by which natural resources are saved, or conserved.

Preservation- the process by which a damaged environment is restored to its natural condition.