In 1929, 52-year-old Rosalie Edge opened a pamphlet that would piss her off so much, she would single-handedly alter the course of the conservation movement.

The pamphlet, titled A Crisis in Conservation, was passed on to her by Willard Van Name, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. Its contents would set off a trigger of events that exposed nefarious assholes at one of the most prestigious conservation societies of the time. Van Name would later describe Edge as "the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation.” 

Before Edge became an absolute fucking legend, she was a New York City socialite and passionate bird watcher. She was born in 1877 in New York City to wealthy British parents. Charles Dickens was her second cousin, which is the most British fucking thing ever, is it not? Sources say that her father heavily favored her over her four siblings and called her “Noble Girl” as a pet name, which must have sucked for her siblings.

In 1913, Edge met fellow badass Viscountess Rhondda, a British suffragette who would later survive the infamous sinking of the RMS Lusitania and launch the Women’s Industrial League. Rhondda told Edge about the effort behind women’s equality, conversations that Edge later said blew her fucking mind. Or, as she actually put it, was “the first awakening of my mind.” 

In 1915, while about to pop with her second child, she felt overwhelmingly that her death was imminent. She did what any decent rich person would do in such a case, and donated a shitload of money to charities, including the Audubon Society. This donation was her first documented interest in birds. 

Just weeks after giving birth to her second child, Edge joined the New York State Women's Suffrage Party —even though her husband, who sounds like a whiny little bitch, was opposed to the cause. Edge devoted herself to the organization, acting as its corresponding secretary, writing and overseeing the delivery of pamphlets. Edge would carry this method of descent into her conservation work. 

Her interest in bird watching began the way most hobbies women excel at begin: an attempt to bond with her husband. She began birdwatching in Central Park and joined bird enthusiast groups and, eventually, the National Audobon Society. Her life-long birdwatching list would grow to include 804 different species.

In 1929, Edge, who was at that point a life member of the Audobon Society, received A Crisis in Conservation, in which its author Van Name details evidence that the well-respected Society was up to some shady shit, including killing birds of prey and trapping small mammals to sell their pelts and furs. 

Edge was like, “What the in the actual fuck is going on here?!” 

Hell hath no fury like a woman who deeply cares about wildlife and pays a member fee to be part of a renowned wildlife society only to find her membership fees are going toward killing the wildlife it's sworn to protect.

Edge’s pursuit of justice was all gas and no breaks. She spoke at the Society’s annual meeting, demanding answers for which the board offered none. So, she said, “fuck you, Audobon nerds. I’ll form my own conservation organization.” And so she formed the Emergency Conservation Committee with a mission to protect common birds and animals, and go toe-to-toe with Audobon.

After a valiant but failed attempt to out the entire Audobon board, Edge sued their asses for financial mismanagement. As well, she sued to get access to part of their membership list and endeavor in which she was successful. The society’s attorney called her a “common scold,” which was apparently slang for a woman who nags. 

Through pamphlets she solicited Van Name to write, she exposed 11,000 Audobon to exactly what kind of shit the society was up to behind closed doors, leading to the Audobon president resigning and a huge decline in membership. 

Edge’s work schooling the Audobon Society wasn’t over. 

In 1933, the Society had pledged to buy land in Pennsylvania that was the site of an annual hawk and eagle hunt and turn it into a preserve for birds of prey. But they never fulfilled their pledge, so Edge was like, “I’ll show you how it's done, bitch.”

Edge swooped in months before the scheduled hunt and signed a contract to lease the 1,340 acres of land with an option to buy. She immediately banned hunting on the property and turned it into Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the world’s very first sanctuary for birds of prey. Two years later, she purchased the land and eventually transferred ownership to her association, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. The association still runs the sanctuary today. 

Edge and the Audobon society butted heads for decades. But, in the final weeks before her death in 1962, the Society gave her what she deserved: a standing ovation at its annual meeting in New York City. 


Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists by Dyana Z. Furmansky uses Edge's personal papers and interviews with family members and associates to paint a vivid picture of her life.


Check out Rosalie Edge: Raptor Hero on the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary YouTube page. The 43-minute video features children’s book author Lisa Kahn Schnell as she takes you through Edge’s activism and also how to draw a hawk. Pretty fucking cool. 


If you ever find yourself in Kempton, Pennsylvania, visit the  Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

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