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Her Books Helped Launch The Environmental Protection Movement

Environmentalist and Writer Rachel Carson
Environmentalist and Writer Rachel Carson

FAITH LAPIDUS: People America, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.  Today, Steve Ember and Rich Kleinfeldt tell about scientist Rachel Carson.  Her work started the environmental protection movement in the United States.

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STEVE EMBER: Rachel Carson was born on May twenty-seventh, nineteen-oh-seven in Springdale, Pennsylvania.  Rachel's father, Robert Carson, was a salesman who invested in local land.  He purchased twenty-six hectares of land to make a home for his family.  The area was surrounded by fields, trees and streaMiss  The Carson family enjoyed living in the beautiful, country environment.

Rachel's mother, Maria Carson, had been a schoolteacher.  She loved books.  She also loved nature.  Rachel was the youngest of three children.  Her sister and brother were already in school when she was born.  So Missus Carson was able to spend a lot of time with Rachel.  She showed Rachel the beauty of nature.  She also taught Rachel a deep love for books.  Missus Carson became the most important influence on Rachel's life.

RICH KLEINFELDT: Rachel was a quiet child.  She liked to read and to write poems and stories.  She was very intelligent.  At a very early age she decided she wanted to be a writer someday. Her first published story appeared in a children's magazine when she was ten years old.

Rachel went to the Pennsylvania College for Women.  She studied English because she wanted to become a professional writer. Yet, she felt she did not have the imagination to write creative stories.  She changed her area of study from English to science after she took a biology course that she liked.  Her professors advised her not to study science.  They said there was no future for a woman in science.

Environmentalist and Writer Rachel Carson
STEVE EMBER: In nineteen twenty-nine, Rachel graduated from college with high honors.  She won a financial award to study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  In nineteen thirty-two, she earned a master's degree in zoology, the scientific study of animals.  She taught zoology at the University of Maryland for a few years.  During the summers, she studied the ocean and its life forms at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts.  That is when she became interested in the mysteries of the sea.

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RICH KLEINFELDT: Rachel's life changed greatly in the middle nineteen thirties.  Her father died suddenly in nineteen thirty-five.  He left very little financial support for Rachel's mother.   It was during the economic decline in the United States called the Great Depression.  Rachel now had to support her mother and herself.  She needed more money than her teaching job could provide.  She began part-time work for a federal government agency, the Bureau of Fisheries in Washington, D.C.

One year later, Rachel's sister died.  Her sister was the mother of two young girls.  Rachel and her mother cared for the girls.  Rachel now had to support her mother, two nieces and herself.  Again, she needed a job with better pay.

STEVE EMBER: A full time job for a biologist opened at the United States Bureau of Fisheries.  Rachel Carson was the only woman to try for the position.  She had the highest score of all people competing for the job.

Miss Carson got the position in August, nineteen thirty-six.  She was chosen to work in the office of the chief of the biology division.

Her first job was to write a series of programs called "Romance Under the Waters."  The series was broadcast on radio for a year. She continued to write and edit publications for the Bureau of Fisheries for many years.  The bureau was happy to have a scientist who was also an excellent writer.  Rachel Carson provided information to the public in interesting and understandable ways.

Rachel Carson wrote Pen Against Paper for the American Department of State
RICH KLEINFELDT: In nineteen-forty, the United States Bureau of Fisheries and the Biological Survey joined to become the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Miss Carson continued as one of the few women employed there as a scientist.  The other women worked as office assistants.

While she was working for the government, Miss Carson wrote at night and on weekends.  In nineteen thirty-seven she wrote a report about sea life.  It was called Undersea.  It appeared in the magazine, Atlantic Monthly.  An editor at a publishing house encouraged her to write a book about the sea for the general public.  So she did.  Her first book, "Under the Sea Wind," was published in nineteen forty-one.

STEVE EMBER: In nineteen forty-eight, Miss Carson began working on another book, "The Sea Around Us."  It became her first best-selling book.

Rachel Carson always researched carefully when