We Should All Honor Marjory Stoneman Douglas's Life Of Activism
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

We Should All Honor Marjory Stoneman Douglas's Life Of Activism

The call-to-action that many students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken up should be no surprise, given the namesake of their high school.

We Should All Honor Marjory Stoneman Douglas's Life Of Activism

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has shaken the nation and has reinvigorated the country's gun control debate with a youthful drive. I truly admire the passion and grace with which students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have turned their anger and heartbreak into political action. The call-to-action that many students have taken up should perhaps come as no surprise, given the namesake of their high school, who in her 108 years (1890-1998) fought for environmental conservation, suffrage, civil rights, and countless other causes. I didn't become a resident of Florida until I was 26, and I maintain close ties to my hometown in Pennsylvania, but the actions of both Douglas and the students of the school that bears her name have made me prouder to call myself a Floridian.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born 100 years before me and died when I was in the second grade. Like her, I spent my youth and early twenties between the Northeast and the Midwest before moving to Florida and embracing the state's social and ecological diversity, along with the natural beauty of the region. Douglas was born in Minnesota, but after her parents divorced, she and her mother moved to Massachusetts, and her father headed to Florida. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1912, the same year that her mother died, Stoneman briefly married Kenneth Douglas, a newspaper editor almost three decades her senior. They divorced shortly afterward, and she moved to Miami to live with her once-estranged father, Frank Stoneman, a founder of the "Miami Herald" who came from a Quaker family. I, unfortunately, hadn't heard of Marjory Stoneman Douglas until her name was sullied in last month's shooting, but once I learned of her Quaker lineage, I was determined to learn more about her - I attended a Quaker high school outside Philadelphia before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, to obtain my B.A. Through my Quaker education, which emphasized that there was that of God in everyone and that we were, therefore, all equal, I became passionate about many of the social movements that Douglas took on.

Frank Stoneman shared the progressive beliefs of many Quakers, but he still initially assigned his daughter to the society pages, writing about what was deemed "women's matters" such as weddings. Douglas was glad to be writing for the burgeoning paper but wished to write about more pertinent issues. And eventually, she did.

Douglas took a break from the "Herald" during the Great War and volunteered with the Red Cross in Europe, although she still wrote articles for the Associated Press while overseas. After the war, she stayed in Paris to work with displaced refugees. The experience made her sympathetic to the needs of the Caribbean refugees who entered South Florida in the second half of the twentieth century. But that wasn't the only social cause Douglas adopted. When she returned to Florida after WWI, she was named Assistant Editor of the "Miami Herald" and given her own column, "The Galley." In this column, her work was able to take on a more political bend, and she wrote about the injustices done to women and racial minorities.

She left the "Herald" in 1923 to become a freelance writer and had also begun taking steps to change national and local legislation. In 1917, she traveled to Tallahassee to campaign for women's suffrage. Much later in life, she returned to Tallahassee to campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1948, she successfully enacted an ordinance in Miami that required that all homes have access to plumbing, after discovering that most homes in the black neighborhood of Coconut Gove did not. She then worked with residents of Coconut Grove to help them secure interest-free loans to have plumbing installed. The following decade, she was a charter member of the American South's first ACLU chapter.

She is most recognized, however, for her work preserving the Everglades, which was once viewed as worthless swampland by many Americans. Douglas was asked by an editor friend to write a nonfiction book about the Miami River, for the Rivers of America series that was published between 1937 and 1974. She didn't believe the short and human-modified river warranted an entire book and asked if she could instead write about the Everglades. "The Everglades: Rivers of Grass" was published in 1947, the same year that Everglades National Park officially opened. The book helped to shift national perceptions of the region, portraying the Everglades not as a worthless swamp that needed to be dealt with, but as an indispensable piece of biodiversity, unlike anything else on the planet.

In 1969, at the age of 79, Douglas founded Friends of the Everglades in response to plans to build a jet port in the Everglades and traveled around the state of Florida raising awareness of construction plans. Only one runway was built before further construction plans were canceled. Despite her dedication to conservation and love of Florida, Douglas described the Everglades as "too buggy, too wet." Still, at a time when parks were mostly valued as places for human recreation, she wanted the area preserved for its own sake and because she understood that environmental and human well-being went hand in hand.

My Quaker education, with its emphasis on environmentalism, prompted me to major in Environmental Studies as an undergrad, despite the fact that I'm only willing to spend time outdoors if it involves sand, surf, and beer. My first semester of grad school, I was introduced to the concept that many outdoorsy types were "loving nature to death," by driving long distances to commune with nature instead of appreciating its right to exist from afar. Through both these studies and learning about Douglas more recently, I have newfound vigor as an environmentalist, knowing that I don't actually have to enjoy engaging with the environment to help it out.

Many environmentalists say that without Douglas, there would be no Everglades today. I wonder how I can make such a lasting impact on this state I now call home. In my second year of grad school, I'm busier than I've ever been, between school, work, and creative endeavors I've taken on independent of the two. I find myself unable to engage with any social cause I feel like I can't give to others when I, as a grad student, have no money or time. I keep telling myself that I'm grateful to be alive, pursuing an M.F.A. in a field I love, in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I keep telling myself that I still have time to change the world.

Even as an old woman with failing eyesight and hearing, Marjory Stoneman Douglas traveled and gave speeches about the causes she believed in, even talking back to hecklers in the audience while she was in her later years. In 1993, at 103, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for a lifetime of activism.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a clunky name. I know something about clunky composite names – my middle name, Golden, is my mom's last name. I always thought I'd hyphenate my last name if I got married, but my boyfriend's last name is already hyphenated and I really don't know what I might do with my surname in the future. I understand why, since the mass shooting, the school is often referred to as "Parkland High School" or "MSD" for succinctness. But I worry about how these simplifications might downplay Marjory Stoneman Douglas's story, and how much the life of a woman who died 20 years ago still matters.

I'm angry at the circumstances through which I learned about this amazing woman. I'm angry that promising young students at a school bearing her name didn't get to see their adulthoods, let alone their 100's, like Douglas did. But I'm inspired by the work of both Stoneman Douglas herself, and of the work that the school's students have taken on.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Where To Find The Best Coffee Drinks In America, According To A Survey

Here's the coffee shop where you should get your morning brew.


Coffee, for billions of people, is one of the only things that can get us out of bed (after hitting snooze a time or two), especially in 2020. Because, if we're being honest, is there anything that beats a quality cup of coffee on those mornings when all we wanted to do is roll over and go back to sleep? The answer is no. And if you're headed to a coffee shop to pick up your caffeinated beverage, you don't want to sleep on the best coffee drinks in America.

According to LiveShopper Sassie's Coffee Project survey, when it comes to chain coffee shops, there are definitely preferred spots you'll want to hit up for your go-to order — whether you order the classic, frozen, or flavored coffee, an espresso, tea, or other. To figure out the hot spots, 1,000 coffee drinkers across the United States took to LiveShopper's mobile app, PrestoShopper, to answer various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Odyssey Template: 25 Questions For My State's Elected Officials

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We fought for these ideals, we shouldn't settle for less."


Whether you're interested in how democracy works, how stop signs get installed, or anything in between, this is your opportunity to ask questions. This is your opportunity to show current and future members of your community what, in your opinion, is most important as your town, city, and state are trying to put the best, most effective practices forward.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Survey: Which Issues Are The Most Important To You In The 2020 Election

If you're a first-time voter or voting by mail for the first time, we want to hear your story.


The general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, will decide not only the next president of the United States but also which political party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate. Young and first-time voters will play a crucial part in determining the result.

Keep Reading... Show less

Articles To Write If You're All About Saving More Money, And Waking Up A Little Bit Earlier

Get your day started right — and keep that budget tight.


For all the young professionals, parents, and students out there who've been working, learning, or even teaching remote — 2020 has likely been the longest year of your life. If you didn't know (sorry), we've been locked down for over 200 days now, and chances are, you are ready for it to be OVER.

Keep Reading... Show less

Who is ready to fa-la-lall in love with holiday-themed sex toys that will make you jingle all the way? If you're biting your lip and your legs are quivering with excitement, hold on to Santa's sleigh reins because there are so many ways to celebrate the season.

Festive sex toys are here to bring you some holiday cheer. From candy cane flavored everything to bright red bows, there is fun for everyone. Feel free to treat yourself or add these 15 festive sex toys to your wish list.

Keep Reading... Show less

How Much Of A Coffee Snob You Are, Based On Where You Live

Your state may determine how picky you are about your coffee.


When it comes to coffee, everyone has different criteria for what goes into their "perfect cup." Some caffeine lovers, though, are extra particular when it comes to their beloved beverage. One survey found that the state you're from (or the one you live in now) may play a part in determining how much of a coffee snob you actually are.

LiveShopper Sassie, the company behind this Coffee Project survey, received input from 1,000 coffee drinkers via their mobile app, PrestoShopper, to ask various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less

7 Reasons 'Hubie Halloween' Is A Must-Watch Halloween Film For October Movie Nights

Just knowing it's an Adam Sandler movie, you can assume it's funny but very ridiculous.


"Hubie Halloween" was just released on October 7. It follows Hubie Dubois in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween. He patrols the town to make sure people are safe. He's the kindest and caring person in the town and also the most bullied.

This poor man is scared of everything. He screams when he sees scary decorations and when people prank him. Definitely a laugh, but when I watched it, I felt bad for him. The one person that pulled at my heartstrings is Violet Valentine, a woman he had a crush on since high school. She's super nice to him and stands up for him when she can. It was great seeing someone, other than his grandma, on Hubie's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

While this is my first ever presidential election, I have voted before in others, including at least one other "off" year election. I can honestly say that one of the things that made voting for the first time interesting was that I personally don't really identify myself with either party completely.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

7 Ways You Can Volunteer Virtually In The Middle Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

Use that anxious energy from dreading the rest of 2020, and put it towards volunteering


Life has shifted from face-to-face to face-to-screen-to-face this past year. There's no need, though, to wait out the pandemic to make a difference from home. Rather than spending the unexpected free time the rest of this year dreading each day, use that same energy towards volunteering from the comfort of your bed or couch or patio.

Here are seven ways you can volunteer safely and virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Hilarious Netflix Specials To Binge If You Need A Laugh In 2020

Netflix specials are single-handedly keeping my spirits high.


I cannot tell you the number of times that I have re-watched these comedy specials over the course of the last seven months.

What I can tell you is how absolutely great these comedians are. They bring me joy when I am sad, bored, or wanting to tune into something while I work on school or my virtual job.

Keep Reading... Show less

"Emily in Paris" is one of the newest Netflix original series and it began streaming on the platform on October 2.

I knew this was going right to the top of my watch list because I have a serious girl crush on Lily Collins, it's from the creator of "Sex and the City", and the plot feeds directly into my "Mamma Mia" fantasy of just hopping on a plane and killing it in a whole new country. Not going to lie, the series has its slightly cringe-y moments, but that honestly makes me love it even more.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Songs We All Need To Add To Our Fall Roadtrip Playlist

This songs are guaranteed to make you feel like the main character this fall.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

One of the best feelings is driving with the windows down. Listening to the right song makes that experience even better. If you want to feel like the main character in your own teen movie, listen to these feel-good classic songs right away.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments