Mrs. Douglas and Rawlings were coming into their own as writers. All were born within a decade of each other and shunned traditional female roles. Instead, they lavished their love on the land.
Simply a 'monist'
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born on April 7, 1890, in Minneapolis, Minn. She was the daughter of Frank Bryant Stoneman of Minneapolis and Florence Lillian Trefethen of Providence, R.I. She counted among her ancestors a great-great uncle, Levi Coffin, who headed the Underground Railroad that spirited slaves to free states and safety.
Though her forebears included many Quakers, she was raised Episcopalian. In her later years she acknowledged no religion, simply describing herself as a "monist.''
Mrs. Douglas first accompanied her parents to Florida at age 4 when her father visited Tampa on business. Her early years, however, were spent in Providence, where financial difficulties plagued her parents' marriage and contributed to her mother's mental breakdowns.
The estrangement of her parents was bitter. She eventually was raised by her grandparents and a high-strung spinster aunt in Taunton, Mass.
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1912, she entered a training course for sales girls and later worked in a department store. After a year in St. Louis, the future writer moved to Newark, N.J., where she met her husband, Kenneth Douglas.
Kenneth Douglas, a newspaper reporter, "was about 6 feet tall, thin and intelligent looking, an ordinary dresser with good manners, and at least 30 years older than me,'' Mrs. Douglas recalled in her 1987 memoirs, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River.
The husband drifted from job to job, taking his new bride as he stayed one move ahead of the rent collector. He was jailed for playing fast and loose with bank drafts.
Mrs. Douglas stuck by him until she was finally persuaded by an uncle, Ned, to walk away from the marriage and join her father in Florida. By 1915, Frank Stoneman had become an established newspaperman in far-flung Miami, a tiny Southern town. He was the editor and founder of the city's first morning newspaper, the News Record, which later evolved into The Miami Herald.
His daughter filed for divorce and went to work as first a cub reporter, then a society writer and later, society editor. She also embarked on her first crusade -- the effort to get women the vote for the first time in the nation's history.
Recruited by the wife of William Jennings Bryan, Mrs. Douglas and other women took a train to Tallahassee to meet with a joint committee of the "wool-hat boys'' at the capital.
"Talking to them was like talking to graven images,'' Mrs. Douglas recalled in her memoirs. "They never paid attention to us at all.'' Florida became the last state to ratify the amendment allowing women to vote.
With World War I raging in Europe in 1917, Mrs. Douglas was dispatched to do a story on the first woman in the state to enlist in the Naval Reserve. There was none, so she signed up.
Mrs. Douglas traveled to Europe and spent 15 months in France, Italy, Greece and the Balkans, first with the reserve, then with the American Red Cross doing publicity work. She returned to Miami in 1920 to become an assistant editor and columnist for the Herald.
It was as a columnist that Mrs. Douglas began to take an interest in the Everglades. It was also during this time that she claimed to have given up men for good. In her later years she frequently entertained audiences by lamenting that she last had sex in 1913.
When you're in love with a man, she wrote, "you are unconsciously dependent on him.'' Despite her celebrated celibacy, she was never lonely, she said.