Women’s History Month: The Faces of the Climate Movement - Public Goods Blog

Women’s History Month: The Faces of the Climate Movement

Before March ends, let’s celebrate the incredible women who have helped shape the world as we know it.

black and white photo of four women

While people have been formally honoring Women’s History since the beginning of the 1900’s, International Women’s Day wasn’t formally recognized by the United Nations (UN) until 1977. Thanks to the work of the National Women’s History Project, congress officially declared March Women’s History Month in the year 1986.

What better way to pay tribute to the female movers and shakers of years’ past than by recognizing those who have dedicated their lives to supporting and advocating for Mother Earth?

Women have historically been at the forefront of climate activism movements and sustainability initiatives, often with little to no recognition. So let’s give these eco-warriors a well deserved round of applause and check out the ways they’ve pushed for protecting our home.

Clare Marie Hodges, 1890-1970

Claire Marie Hodges riding a horse
Credit: Hodges: Photograph from the National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center, Historic Photo Collection

With men being away or not making it home during World War I, many women were brought into the workforce in various industries. One of these fields was the national park system.

In 1918, Clare Marie Hodges became the first woman ranger in the NPS, calling Yosemite National Park home. As of 2016, women make up about 40% of the NPS workforce. Way to go Clare for forging the path!

Margaret (Mardy) Thomas Murie, 1902-2003

Margaret Thomas Murie
Credit: English, Edith; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (crop by Sven Manguard)

Murie is often described as the “grandmother of the conservation movement.” In her impressive 101 years of life, Murie, alongside her husband Olaus, helped push for legislation that protected the Alaskan wilderness. Her work made the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge possible. In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

Rachel Carson, 1907-1964

Rachel Carson
Credit: “How silent the spring” Associated Press photo,1963. Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress

Originally from Springdale, Pennsylvania, Carson was a marine scientist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, focusing mostly on writing and editing. Carson authored the 1962 bestseller, “Silent Spring,” where she posed controversial questions on humans’ right and ability to control nature.

“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world” – Carson.

Annie Aghnaqa (Akeya) Alowa, 1924-1999

Annie Aghnaqa Alowa
Credit: Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Alowa was an indegnious healer, midwife, and climate activist from Savoonga, a Yupik village on the island of St. Lawrence, Alaska, a mere forty miles from Russia. The 1952 establishment of a U.S. Air Force base on her home island resulted in residents of the island being exposed to large amounts of pollution and hazardous waste. After seeing the detrimental health effects this military presence had on her community and environment, Alowa spent the rest of her life dedicated to pushing for legislation and action that would protect the Alaskan people from environmental contaminants. During the time she was passing from cancer, Alowa said to her colleague and dear friend, Pamela Miller, “I will fight until I melt.” — and that she did.

Starhawk, 1951-Present

Wiki commons: Dedda71

Starhawk, the child of Jewish-Russian immigrants, is an author, activist and founder of Earth Activist Training, an educational training program focused on land management and permaculture design. Along with her trainings, Starhawk has helped create numerous films, videos and books regarding modern Earth-based spirituality and ecofeminism.

Vandana Shiva, 1952-Present

Vandana Shiva
Flickr: Samir Luther

Hailing from Dehradun, India, Shiva is a prolific author and writer in the fields of science, technology and ecofeminism. Being the daughter of an employee of the Forest Department instilled her love for nature at a young age. Shiva has long served as a voice against genetically modified crops. Her movement, Navdanya, established in 1991, serves to “to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources (native seed, promotion of organic farming and fair trade).”

Audrey Peterman, ?-Present

From My Jamaican Gully to the World by Audey Peterman
Credit: Audrey Peterman

Born in Jamaica, Peterman’s career as an environmental activist was inspired by a 1995 cross-country road trip with her best friend and husband, Frank. On this trip, their love for each other, and the U.S. National Parks, grew deeper and deeper. With her background in journalism, Peterman started Earthwise Productions, to increase knowledge and accessibility of National Parks among black folks and other people of color.

“If you look at American history, you would get the feeling that only white people participated in the creation of our country, and the national parks show the exact opposite of that…non-white people played an equal and sometimes greater role in the creation of the space that we enjoy today.” – Audrey Peterman

Lyla June, ?-Present

Lyla June
Flickr: Festival of Faiths

Raised in Llano Quemado, New Mexico, Lyla June Johnston is a “Native American environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, economist, community organizer and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages.” June has done extensive work in the fields of politics, mental health and environmental activism to push for innovative solutions in the face of the climate crisis. She was a key figure in the 2016 movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Mari Copney, 2007-Present

Mari Copney on a woman's shoulders holding a megaphone
Flickr: Hillel Steinberg

In 2016, Copney (now 13), wrote a letter to then President Barack Obama detailing the water crisis that began in her hometown of Flint, Michigan in 2014. Her efforts caught Obama’s attention, and she soon became a key voice in the ongoing fight to make clean drinking water accessible to those in her community.


woman standing with arms out in front of the ocean

What small (or large) steps can you take today to follow in these legendary women’s footsteps and join the fight against climate change? Let’s make our ancestors proud.

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