Gene Stratton-Porter’s influence is felt even today over 150 years after her birth and
almost 90 years after her death. This is an enormous accomplishment for any author or
naturalist to still be quoted, read and written about by contemporary writers.
Her legacy has become more than her fiction writing which gave her early fame. Gene’s
non fiction books, articles and her activity in the early environmental movement in this
country has become widely recognized by the conservation community.
She keenly felt the loss of the Limberlost and wanted to ensure that other natural areas
were not drained. Gene spoke out nationally about the drainage of the upper bottoms
of the Mississippi River. In northeast Indiana, she was passionate and vocal about the
proposed draining of the lakes in northeastern Indiana. Today we cannot imagine a time
when some would want to drain our lakes for agricultural land. What if she and others had not spoken out against it?
Gene’s writings have been quoted in a number of books published in the United States in
the past twenty-years. Books on collective nature writings contain chapters of her work.
One such book is “Environmental Writing Since Thoreau: American Earth.” Her article
on “The Last Passenger Pigeon” is included. She was one of those named in a book
called “The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy.” I think that
Gene would be humbled to be in the company of John Muir, John Burroughs, Enos Mills,
Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson (who came after Gene).
In the book “Sisters of the Earth,” there is a chapter called “Song of the Limberlost”
that was written by Gene. Her beloved Limberlost is still remembered, mourned for its
loss and now celebrated for efforts of restoring some of the old Limberlost back into wetlands.
Her latest biography, “Nature’s Storyteller: The Life of Gene Stratton-Porter” by Barbara
Oleynik Morrow is geared for youth. Barbara does a wonderful power point presentation
which she has given to school children, there by introducing a whole new generation to Gene.
In 1960, Gene was given an award posthumously by the Izaak Walton League along
with Aldo Leopold. Gene was a charter member of this organization in 1922. I think
that Gene would be pleased to be honored with Leopold. They recognized her work as a
conservationist and a naturalist. Gene wrote an article in the first issue of their magazine “Outdoor America.”
In 1922, she was asked to write the forewords of two books: “Wild Birds and Their
Haunts” and “The Wild Heart.” In the nineteen years since the publication of “Song of
the Cardinal,” Gene had become a well-respected naturalist and author.
Gene’s voice may have been silenced but her work is still remembered and honored. Her
life ended suddenly when it was only three-quarters lived. We can only imagine what she
could have accomplished had she lived that last quarter.