Who was Rosalie Edge?
Rosalie Edge was an American women’s rights activist and environmentalist who founded the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. A progressive New York socialite and dedicated suffragist, Rosalie Edge was the first American woman to achieve national acclaim as a conservationist. Born to wealthy parents in New York City, she had a privileged childhood and received a private school education. She married a wealthy British engineer, and often accompanied her husband on his work related trans-Atlantic trips, splitting her time between New York and Europe. Her life took a turn when she met Lady Rhondda, a women’s suffrage activist, during one of her voyages. Deeply moved by the interaction, Rosalie became involved in the women's suffrage movement and later upon returning to the United States, she profoundly helped in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Then, Rosalie turned her attention towards wildlife activism and soon found a passion for birds. She devoted herself to conservationand subsequently formed the Emergency Conservation Committee which published many pamphlets over the years to prohibit hunting. When the committee saw pictures of dying birds in the Kittatinny Mountains, she brought the concerned site and founded the ‘Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’, serving as its president until her death. Rosalie was one of the most devoted environmentalists of the 20th century and her sanctuary is still operational for conservation as well as educational and research programs.
Childhood & Early Life
Rosalie Edge was born as Mabel Rosalie Barrow on November 3, 1877, in New York City, U.S., to John Wylie Barrow, a successful British importer and accountant, and his wife, Harriet Bowen Woodward Barrow. Rosalie was the youngest of five surviving children in her wealthy family.
Rosalie Edge received her elementary education from Miss Doremus’ School, a private school. She did not attend college and was brought up well-mannered in a high society.
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In 1913, during one of her Trans-Atlantic trips, Rosalie met Sybil Margaret Thomas a.k.a. Lady Rhondda who was a prominent British women’s suffrage activist. Through Sybil, Rosalie came to know about male-dominated political scenario that was crushing the rights of women. The interaction had a profound effect on Rosalie and she almost immediately decided to join the women’s suffrage movement.
Subsequently, she became a member of the Equal Franchise Society, learned the basics of politics, and discovered her ability to deliver speeches and take part in debates. Subsequently, she was appointed the secretary-treasurer of the New York State Woman Suffrage Party.
Upon returning to the United States, she became a strong advocate for the equal rights to women. She significantly helped in the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution in 1920 which gave women the right to vote.
After achieving victory in the women’s suffrage movement, Rosalie turned her attention towards wildlife and conservation. She developed a particular interest in bird watching and compiled a list of more than 800 species of birds.
In 1929, she received a pamphlet called ‘A Crisis in Conservation’ which discussed the serious issue of hunting. It strongly criticized the National Association of Audubon Societies (NAAS), a wildlife conservation organization which unacceptably allowed hunting on their owned lands in Louisiana.
Subsequently, Rosalie founded the Emergency Conservation Committee which published and distributed numerous pamphlets through the years questioning the working of various supposed wildlife protection organizations.
As a founder and lifelong member of the association, Rosalie expertly advocated to take much stronger measures to safeguard many bird species. As a keen environmental activist, she also pushed for creating laws which assert humans to protect the wildlife and nature.
Later, upon coming across images of dying hawks in the Kittatinny Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, Rosalie was deeply affected. Thereafter, Rosalie began a year-long campaign to raise the $3,500 in order to purchase the concerned land in the mountains near Kempton in Pennsylvania.
Eventually, she bought the site in 1934 and subsequently founded the ‘Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’, serving as its president until her death. Over the next three decades, she raised money and conducted educational programs in the sanctuary, becoming one of the most prominent figures in American conservation.
She played key roles in the establishment of Olympic National Park and Kings Canyon National Parks, and also helped in the expansion of Yosemite National Park.
Following her contribution for the passage of women’s suffrage, Rosalie devoted herself entirely to conservation. She criticized the Audubon Societies over their objectionable act to permit hunting on their owned land, and later also founded the Emergency Conservation Committee, publishing many pamphlets over the years.
Rosalie Edge is most celebrated for founding the ‘Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’, the world's first refuge for birds of prey. Established in 1934 and located in eastern Pennsylvania, the sanctuary is still in progress to save birds, conduct researches and run educational programs.
Personal Life & Legacy
In May 1909, Rosalie traveled to Yokohama, Japan, where she married Charles Noel Edge, a wealthy British civil engineer who worked in ship and railroad construction. For the next three years, Charles toured extensively in Asia on his work assignments and Rosalie often accompanied him on these trips. Later, the couple settled permanently in New York and had two children, Peter and Margaret.
Rosalie Barrow Edge died on November 30, 1962, at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, U.S. Even after more than 50 years of her death, the work of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary' she founded, continues on today.