As this special issue took shape, many of the myths about Audubon fell by the wayside. Chief among them was one presented in "The Audubon Image," an essay by John Madson that appeared in our 75th-anniversary issue. "There it is," he wrote, "the 'little old ladies in tennis shoes syndrome.' How universal is the impression that the Audubon Society is a circle of dowager dicky-birders?"
You won't find dowager dicky-birders in these pages. In her groundbreaking "Hats Off to Audubon," Jennifer Price, an environmental scholar, gives long-overdue credit to the high-society womenneither "little" nor "old"who, at the turn of the 20th century, took on the powerful plume industry and drove it out of business within a decade. If you're repulsed by the story's beautifully horrific photos of hats adorned with feathers and dead birds, bear in mind that these fashion statements belong not to some barbaric early era but to your grandmother’s time or your great-grandmother's. As Audubon pioneers kick-started the modern conservation movement, they invented their cause's grassroots tactics, like letter writing and boycotts, which have become indispensable to their 21st-century progeny.
These Audubon activists personify success as defined by legendary conservationist Brock Evansquoted in Ted Williams's "We're Winning": "Endless pressure endlessly applied." Today Audubon's volunteer army continues to operate at full forceoften with their state offices. It might be the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Minnesota River Valley Audubon chapters preventing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or Wake Audubon in North Carolina helping to stall the U.S. Navy from building a landing strip in a fragile area essential to thousands of migrating geese and swans ("Rising to the Cause").
Many of these chapter stalwarts are my frequent correspondents, contacting
me with story ideas and questions. Among them is Susanne Scholz, the membership
chair of the Redbud Audubon chapter, north of California's Napa Valley,
which each April holds a popular festival honoring great blue herons.
She recently asked a question that keeps popping up from members, readers,
and even librarians: "Is Audubon back to being bimonthly?"
I'm happy to report, as you'll note from the cover, that once again Audubon
is appearing every other month, even if the issues are a little slimmer
to help defray the initial cost. "Many people here will be glad to
be getting more magazines," she says. "The variety, information,
exquisite pictures, and the competency of the Audubon organization seem
to rise to the top." We're sincerely humbled, Susanne. Thank you
for helping us observe our centennial with the conviction of a dedicated
volunteer in Audubon's finest tradition.
© 2004 National Audubon Society
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