Unpacking Rosalie Edge, Slowly: Stories 'Hawk of Mercy' Doesn't Tell Part 10
On June 25 my husband and I went to the Aspen Institute for the Colorado Book Awards because “Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy” was named a finalist in the biography category. Rosalie won, or I did—in such cases I am not sure which one of us gets credit.
Though I am sure neither of us expected this prize, it fits tangentially into this posting about how I received no financial support for the work on Edge’s biography.
Before completing ‘Hawk of Mercy’ I received at least 15 personally written rejections from agents and publishers; yet encouragement twinkled in at least half of them, in the regret expressed for turning me down. It seemed a great story, they wrote, but Edge as a conservation heroine lacked broad audience appeal. Of course there was no way for her to gain broad audience appeal if no book about her were published. I didn’t give up but I did put off, writing or reporting on matters with dollar signs and broad audience appeal. Dreadful matters for The New York Times, it turned out--like the Oklahoma City trials in 1997 and 1998, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and a forest fire in Idaho. Regardless of how cold I let Rosalie’s trail get between indulgent research binges, I found her example restorative, which was not the case with the other subjects and their horrors. Rosalie never quit, so nor could Dyana. Despite what the agents and publishers said, I was convinced that Rosalie deserved to be as widely admired as Margaret Stoneman Douglas or Rachel Carson, and that Edge’s trademark edginess, her national breadth, and her middle aged, take-no-prisoners feistiness, made her a more fascinating character than the other two women, even if they were more likeable as heroines. Since Hawk of Mercy was published I have met many readers who confessed they weren’t interested in conservation until they read about Rosalie Edge for their book club. The ways she lived, channeled her pain and disappointment into a cause greater than herself resonated with them, and made them wonder if they could do that too. No, I was not shown the money to write Hawk of Mercy though a nice cash bonus accompanied the Colorado Book Award certificate and plaque. But gratification continues as I see Edge-awareness growing up by the grassroots all over. The Philadelphia-based Delaware Valley Ornithological Club renamed one of its annual awards the Rosalie Edge Conservation Award to be bestowed on a non-DVOC member in the spirit of Edge, who as a private citizen fought tirelessly against overwhelming odds to advance conservation.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’s board of directors passed a resolution calling for Edge to posthumously receive “the highest conservation recognition possible;” the new E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center at 48,000-acre Nokuse Plantation in the Florida Panhandle named a classroom for Edge.
The others are named for Carson, Stoneman Douglas, William Bartram, Sequoyah and Archie Carr. So she’s in good company. Next: Maurice’s Journal.