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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance honors the many amazing women in Biodynamic agriculture whose efforts have left a lasting positive legacy on us all. As we collectively cultivate a humanity that is more inclusive and relationship-based, it is essential that we pay attention to our predecessors who quietly held the wisdom while working hard to achieve milestones in the Biodynamic movement that we revere today. Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, is our figurehead for a reason. Women have always played a key role in shaping Biodynamics, and they continue to do so today.
Most people have heard of Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring raised awareness of the dangers of DDT and generated such public outcry that it helped to motivate the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air Act, and a host of other environmental legislation. But the efforts of Marjorie Spock are less widely known. Marjorie’s early efforts to stop the spraying of DDT on Long Island, NY, in the late 1950s were essential in amplifying the impact of Carlson’s work.
At age 18, Marjorie Spock skipped college and traveled to the Goetheranum in Dornach, Switzerland, to study Eurythmy and Anthroposophy with Rudolf Steiner and later traveled with him on his lecture circuit throughout the continent. After many instrumental achievements, Marjorie and her friend Mary (Polly) Richards, by this time both well-known Anthroposophists, started a Biodynamic farm on Long Island, NY, in the 1950s under the guidance of Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (for a more detailed history(link is external)).
In 1957, Marjorie and Polly watched as their farm was sprayed with DDT fourteen times in one day as part of a government effort to eradicate the gypsy moth. Local citizens witnessed the death of hundreds of bee colonies and multitudes of fish, turtles, and amphibians. Marjorie and Mary’s farm lay in ruins as the soil had become too toxic to farm organically. Seeing no other alternative, they sued the federal government to stop the spraying in what is considered the first citizen-led lawsuit in modern environmental history.
While they lost three lawsuits and appeals, they inspired other active citizens to use the legal system to fight growing environmental problems. In addition, the mountain of evidence that Marjorie and her allies gathered created a compelling scientific case for the dangers of DDT on humans and wildlife. >
Throughout the three-year legal process, Spock attended the hearings daily, wrote summaries, and used an early-stage fax machine to send them daily to a growing list of interested people, including Rachel Carson. Marjorie and her allies’ extensive research, contacts, and testimony contributed significantly to Carlson’s writing of Silent Spring. The two women became fast friends and corresponded through dozens of letters. As Rachel Carsen once wrote, “So few understand. I wish I had known you sooner.”
To read an in-depth history of Marjorie Spock and the influence of Spock, Richard, and Pfeiffer on Silent Spring: https://buff.ly/3mJdVyI(link is external)
To learn more about Spock and Richards’ legal efforts: https://buff.ly/3YuSaQl(link is external)
To review a list of Spock’s books and translations: https://buff.ly/3LbCkqB