Episode 37 – Bird Lady and Lady Bird

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At the peak of 19th-century hat culture, an ounce of feathers was worth more than an ounce of gold. This extravagant trend, however, was putting once-flourishing bird populations in peril.

Enter the bird lady: Harriet Hemenway, a controversial Boston socialite who co-founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society and used posh tea parties to protest the overhunting of birds. Elise recalls Harriet’s story and the bird species that didn’t make it.

Then Olivia tells the story of Lady Bird Johnson, former U.S. First Lady during the Johnson administration, who pushed a forward-thinking environmental agenda through seemingly superficial beautification projects. And also might have sent the CIA after a beloved outspoken singer…

Other topics include organizing among friends, easy access to climate change basics, and anti-car sneakers?

FYI if you’ve listened:
‘Lady Bird’: The History of the Title and Character Name by The Hollywood Reporter — we looked it up and turns out Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was not inspired by Lady Bird Johnson.

Story #1: Harriet Hemenway, Bird Hats, and the other Boston Tea Party protest (Elise)
A young Harriet Hemenway. [Photo from Mass Audubon]

Hats Off To Women Who Saved The Birds, NPR, July 2015
A Hat Tip to the Women Who Started Modern Bird Conservation in the U.S., Audubon Society, June 2018
The Bird Hat Craze That Sparked A Preservation Movement, Pacific Standard, Oct 2014
The Women Who Removed Birds From People’s Hats, Popular Science, May 2014
How Two Women Ended the Deadly Feather Trade, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2013
A Feather in her Cap, History Today, May 2021
Harriet Hemenway and The Audubon Society, Dave’s Garden, April 2019
Love Birds? Thank Harriet Hemenway, U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, March 2020
The Mothers of Conservation, MassAudubon, March 2015
Harriet Hemenway, Women In Exploration, March 2021
Plume Trade, Stanford
Audubon, Wikipedia
Endangered Species Act of 1973, Wikipedia

A little nugget of information that didn’t quite make it into the episode is that the “Save The Birds” movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement overlapped frequently! The tin bird sign below was created to support a 1915 state referendum to give Massachusetts women the vote. The referendum ultimately failed, but it’s cool to see the movements influence each other.

Signboard, bluebird motif, Votes for Women. PL*242991.260.
One of many extravagant feathered hats. [Source: Seamstress For The Band]
Like!!! What!!! [Source: Seamstress For The Band]
Portlandia’s Put a Bird On It sketch — essential viewing.
Story #2: Lady Bird Johnson, Urban Renewal, and Beautification
Lady Bird Johnson in a wildflower field.

In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson eight-part podcast by ABC Audio & Best Case Studios. Hosted by New York Times bestselling author Julia Sweig. Absolutely worth your time, especially to hear Lady Bird’s audio diaries!
Lady Bird Johnson and Her Wildflower Center video by Jean Synodinos
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website
Lady Bird Johnson Centennial Video by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
LBJ: The President Who Marked His Territory by Jenny Drapkin for Mental Floss, April 2008
Eartha Kitt Said Black Lives Matter in 1968, TV One TV, July 14 2016
Eartha Kitt: The White House Incident, interview with Eartha, November 2013
Eartha Kitt vs. The White House – Newly Found Audio, This is the President, April 2021
Lady Bird Johnson website
Wikipedia of Lady Bird Johnson and Eartha Kitt
Lady Bird Johnson, LBJ Library

Politifact determined that who encouraged the CIA to look into Eartha Kitt is unknown, though it doesn’t seem that Lady Bird was closely involved.

To learn more about Jane Jacobs, we recommend the documentary Citizen Jane, which is currently streaming on Hulu.

“Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool. All the threads are interwoven — recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks — national, state and local. It is hard to hitch the conversation into one straight line, because everything leads to something else.

Lady Bird Johnson in her diary

Check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center if you’re in Austin, and send us photos! In addition to beautiful flowers, they have areas dedicated to researching prescribed burns (an essential indigenous fire control practice that we covered in Episode 23) and biodiversity.

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson planting a tree during the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC, 04/06/1965. [Photo and Caption: Vintages via Archival Source]

If your highway commute looks more like the right than the left, thank Lady Bird:

The Dump

Mae Martin’s Feel Good on Netflix
earthrise and Waterbear’s The Breakdown series

The World Is Burning bookshop is live! Help us come up with book list titles and bulk up our reading list.

Our World is Burning themed playlist is on Spotify.

You can keep up with us on Twitter and Instagram.

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Thanks for listening!

Ep. 74 – Burning Questions Part II World Is Burning

Can you believe we've gone 2 1/2 years without creating our very own game show about us? Neither can we! Test your climate knowledge alongside us as we ask ourselves the burning questions: Where are tumbleweeds from? What are our favorite climate activists' favorite insects? and How do you do fractions again? Subscribe/follow/press the button to keep up with new episodes every Wednesday! You can also follow us @worldisburnin on Instagram and Twitter or @worldisburning on TikTok, and check out our website worldisburning.com for extended show notes including sources and photos. World Is Burning is hosted by Olivia Hamilton and Elise Nye. Our theme music is by Kaycie Satterfield, and our logo was made by Sonja Katanic. — Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/worldisburning/message
  1. Ep. 74 – Burning Questions Part II
  2. Ep 73 – Burning Questions
  3. Ep. 72 – It’s A Joke Until It’s Not – the Overton Window and AI
  4. Ep. 71 – Oil Spills – Deepwater Horizon and Dawn Dish Soap
  5. Ep. 70 – Deep Sea Explorers – Jacques Cousteau & Dr. Sylvia Earle