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)
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
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.
Story #2: Lady Bird Johnson, Urban Renewal, and Beautification
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.
“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.
If your highway commute looks more like the right than the left, thank Lady Bird:
Mae Martin’s Feel Good on Netflix
earthrise and Waterbear’s The Breakdown series
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Thanks for listening!