Unsung Heroes: Women In Conservation: Harriet Hemenway (1858-1960)

My source is here.

Harriet Hemenway was a prominent member of Boston society at a time when feather hats were a status symbol for wealthy ladies. Each year between five and fifteen million birds in the U.S and over 60 species worldwide were threatened with extinction due to the use of feathers (and sometimes whole dead birds!) in haute couture. In 1896, William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Society, wrote an article condemning the practice, and after Harriet read it, she and her cousin held meetings to raise awareness about the seriousness of this issue. They founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society and in 1897 they were involved in the passage of a law while banned the trade of wild bird feathers. Although Ms. Hemenway and her cousin preferred to work at the local level to protect birds, their activism inspired change at the national level as well. In 1900, the Lacey Act was passed which banned interstate trafficking of protected species, and in 1903, Teddy Roosevelt made Pelican Island the first Federal Bird Reserve. In 1913, the Weeks-McLean law was passed which prohibited spring and nighttime shooting of birds and the interstate sale of wild game. This eventually became the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

As an avid birdwatcher, I am truly thankful that Harriet Hemenway and others like her took a stand against the slaughter of beautiful birds in the name of high fashion, and I’m thankful I didn’t live in a time and place where a dead bird carcass on your head meant you came from money.