There are no other Everglades in the world….
—Marjory Stoneman Douglas
In the early 1940s, Hervey Allen was editor of Rinehart and Company's Rivers of America series. Visiting his aunt who lived in Miami, Allen stopped by Marjory Stoneman Douglas's house to see if she might write a book about the Miami River. She thought that there was not much to say about the Miami River and that maybe she should write about the Everglades instead. Allen agreed, and so did Douglas embark on an adventure that would consume the rest of her life. Her seminal book The Everglades: River of Grass was published in 1947.
As historian Robin Faith Bachin notes, "The Everglades are the ecological heart of Florida." Stretching 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, this unique ecosystem is home to a wide variety of wildlife, ranging from the Great Blue Heron to the endangered Florida panther. It was the historic home of several Native American tribes and today includes part of the Seminole tribal lands. Although the Everglades were named a national park in 1947, the encroachments of civilization continue to this day.
From the publication of her first book until her death in 1998 at the age of 108, Marjory Stoneman Douglas eloquently celebrated the mysteries of South Florida's wilderness and championed the preservation of South Florida's River of Grass. A writer and environmentalist, Douglas came to Florida in 1915 at the age of 25, fleeing a failed marriage. She joined her father Frank Bryan Stoneman as a writer at the Miami Herald. A few years later, Douglas started writing short stories for the Saturday Evening Post and other national publications.
Douglas joined the faculty of the University of Miami only a year after its founding and went on to direct its Winter Institute of Literature and serve as editor for the University of Miami Press. In 1960, she founded the University's Friends of the Library. Perhaps her most valuable expression of friendship to the library was her donation of her personal papers in 1987.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Papers are today one of the most vital research collections at the University of Miami Libraries. The papers contain extensive material for historians and students of the Everglades and South Florida's environmental history. Douglas also wrote prolifically about Miami and its culture, politics, and social conditions. These writings and her vast correspondence are valuable sources for the study of Miami, its development, and its history. The collection has served a major role in two digital library projects. Reclaiming the Everglades: South Florida's Natural History, 1884 to 1934 is the result of a collaboration among the University of Miami Libraries, Florida International University, and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Most recently, Dr. Bachin included materials from the Douglas Papers in her Travel, Tourism, and Urban Growth in Greater Miami digital archive.
Collection Profile and Overview: Maria R. Estorino
Illustrations: University of Miami Libraries Special Collections