Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105i/Section 50/Caroline Dormon

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Caroline "Carrie" Dormon
BornJuly 19, 1888
Briarwood, Louisiana
DiedNovember 21, 1971
Shreveport, Louisiana
OccupationConservationist, Botanist

Overview[edit | edit source]

Caroline "Carrie" Dormon (July 19, 1888 - November 21, 1971) was an American botanist and forest conservationist. Some consider her to be Louisiana's first preservationist. Dormon lived in Louisiana her entire life and advocated for forest conservation and highway beautification even in her "retired" years.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Dormon was born on July 19, 1888 in northern Louisiana at her family’s summer home, “Briarwood.” Her mother, Caroline Dormon, passed on her love of writing, and her daughter soon learned to write by the young age of 3. Dormon’s father, James Alexander Dormon, was a well-respected lawyer who insisted that all eight of his children attend college. As a naturalist, he also passed on his love of the environment and constantly took his kids on camping trips and taught them the names of plant and animal species. Growing up, Dormon spent much time playing outside with her siblings, who were all described as “wild” by neighbors and friends.[2]

At 16 years old, Dormon started attending Judson College in Alabama where she studied literature and art. Dormon never conformed to societal norms and claimed that she “belonged to the wild”, where she could be herself.[3] Eventually, Dormon began teaching at Kisatchie School near Briarwood; she wanted to be close to home because she frequently suffered from arthritis, heart problems, and the flu. Due to her illnesses and unconventional upbringing, she struggled to hold a job and “retired” in 1918. Being independent and strong-willed, Dormon never married and devoted her life to preservation of the natural world. She lived at Briarwood with her sister, Virginia, who did the housework and bookkeeping while Dormon spent her time outside.[4]

Working Years[edit | edit source]

At the beginning of the 20th century, Dormon became more passionate about forest conservation as the longleaf pine forests in Louisiana were being cut at alarming rates. As a well-educated woman, Carrie broke gender norms and made herself well-known in political circles and the public. After gaining support from lawyers, members of the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Representative James Aswell, and even lumbermen, the Kisatchie National Forest was born in 1930. She continued to propose potential locations for state parks and was appointed State Chairman of Conservation and Forestry for the Louisiana Federation of Women’s Clubs. Dormon expressed concern to Louisiana congressional representatives about lack of funding and earned a position in the Division of Forestry as an Education Specialist. She developed programs for schools across the state to teach kids about forest preservation and was eventually elected as an Associate Member of the Society of American Foresters. Dormon advocated for highway beautification and also suggested what eventually became the Louisiana State Arboretum to educate Louisianians about the importance of trees. In 1969, Dormon published her own novel, Bird Talk, discussing different bird species.[5]

Later Years[edit | edit source]

Dormon experienced financial troubles, not because she was uneducated, but rather because she devoted her life to “more important matters.”[6] Dormon's health issues got in the way of her work, and she had to decline offers to positions such as teaching at Southeastern Louisiana University. At 83 years old, Dormon passed away on November 21, 1971 in Shreveport, Louisiana.[7]

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Forest Conservation[edit | edit source]

Due to lumber production, the longleaf pine forests have become endangered. Once, the longleaf pine forests spread across 90 million acres in North America, many in Louisiana. Throughout the 19th century, the vast majority of these forests were harvested and converted into urban communities. Now, only about 3.4 million acres remain.[8] Longleaf pine forests are "some of the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems"; many threatened and endangered species such as the indigo snake, southeastern fox squirrel, eastern wild turkey, flatwood salamander, and gopher tortoise rely on the longleaf pine forests as their habitats.[9] These changes in habitat are also causing a decline in breeding bird populations, particularly in Louisiana.[10] The United States Fish and Wildlife Service states that 29 species associated with the longleaf pine forests are threatened or endangered; one of these species, the red-cockaded woodpecker, is a keystone species that is necessary for the survival of 27 other animal species. Eventually, the United States Department of Agriculture began the Longleaf Pine Initiative to work with landowners to restore the disappearing forests.[11] Organizations such as the Louisiana Natural Resources Conservation Service strive to increase the number of longleaf pine forests in order to protect threatened and endangered wildlife so that future generations are able to appreciate the beauty of these unique southern forests. Nonprofits such as American Forests, the oldest nonprofit forest conservation organization in the U.S., advocate for reforestation and the prevention of climate change.[12] Progress has been made; for example, in 2012, the U.S. Forest Service released a Planning Rule to push for substantive change in the federal forest policy in order to maintain and "restore the composition, structure, ecological functions, and habitat connectivity characteristics of the ecosystem[s]" across America.[13]

Gender Stereotypes in the Business/Political World[edit | edit source]

In the late 19th century/early 20th century, women typically were housewives and were not involved in politics. The only women who were involved in politics did so because they married rich husbands who were well-respected and recognized. The business and political fields were very male-dominated. Although women have "increased their social citizenship, as represented by access to jobs and education, and women, in particular, benefit from many programs of the welfare state [...] they remain unequal [and] earn less than men, end up in occupational ghettos, bump up against glass ceilings, and find themselves, in relation to men, as poor as ever."[14] In the twentieth century, women were systematically excluded from access to jobs and income while men held the economic advantage.[15]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Barnett, James P., Troncale, Sarah M., Caroline Dormon: the South’s exceptional forest conservationist and naturalist, 44.
  2. Ibid., 2.
  3. Ibid., 5.
  4. Ibid., 7.
  5. Ibid., 29.
  6. Ibid., 39.
  7. Ibid., 41.
  8. FOX 8 Local First, "Heart of Louisiana: Longleaf Pine."
  9. National Resources Conservation Service of Louisiana, “Longleaf Pine Initiative.”
  10. Norris, Jennifer L., Chamberlain, Michael J., and Twedt, Daniel J. “Effects of Wildlife Forestry on Abundance of Breeding Birds in Bottomland Hardwood Forests of Louisiana.”
  11. Ibid.
  12. American Forests, “Who We Are.”
  13. Schultz, Courtney A., Thomas D. Sisk, Barry R. Noon, and Martin A. Nie, "Wildlife Conservation Planning Under the United States Forest Service's 2012 Planning Rule."
  14. Katz, M. B., Stern, M. J., & Fader, J. J, “Women and the Paradox of Inequality in the Twentieth Century.”
  15. Ibid.

References[edit | edit source]