I’m writing in the lobby bar of the J.W. Marriott in the L.A. Live complex getting ready for the BlogHer annual conference to commence tonight, Thursday, August 4th. I arrived here in LA on Tuesday night, but went to Long Beach via the metro and a bus on Wednesday to catch a ferry to one of the Channel Islands, Santa Catalina Island.
Yesterday was a personal pilgrimage to a place where a woman who influenced my understanding of what how a woman, a writer and a scientist could combine these constraints. She was a writer of simple, and sometimes saccharine tales of the midwest of her childhood in the mid-late 1800s. Gene Stratton-Porter wrote best-selling novels between 1904 and 1924. She also leveraged her celebrity and ability to sell books with her publishers so that she was able to write and publish an amateur science nonfiction book between each novel.
I grew up knowing about her forays into swampy and wetland areas where she used ethological practices to document the hatching of birds and other previously undocumented behaviors. The techniques she used would not be put into common practice until the likes of Jane Goodall began using non-intrusive methods to document animal behavior. Stratton-Porter also influenced Rachel Carson to work non-destructively within the living systems she loved and documented. Without the generations of influence of women who understood the world in different ways than the male-dominated science and governmental systems that controlled science and our understanding well into this century, we would live in a poorer world for lack of the nuanced understanding they brought to us and interjected about living systems. Their influence is still unfolding. They are all with us still.
I grew up amid remnant bits of swamp in the waterlogged mid-west, I know the settings of Stratton-Porter’s books. I grew up in them. I wanted to see the island she grew to love later in her life. So I took an afternoon trip the day before the conference started to Catalina Island in the Channel Islands off the California Coast.
I whole-heartedly recommend taking the ferry from Long Beach to Catalina. Here is a brief overview of my all too brief of a trip.
This trip oriented me in an unanticipated way for the largely female attended conference I attended over the next three days. For me, and perhaps through me, the past all the way back to the 1800s touched the future of women’s communications throughout the 21st Century. Gene would be proud.