Indiana is home to many natural wonders like Wildflower Woods, located outside of Rome City (northwest of Fort Wayne), Indiana at the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site. Indiana author, photographer, and naturalist, Gene Stratton-Porter shared her passion for the environment and wildlife in her writing and used her influence to fight for the preservation of nature and to encourage others to care for their natural surroundings.
A Love of Nature
Born in 1863 in Wabash County, in northeastern Indiana, Geneva Grace Stratton developed a love of nature and animals in childhood. In 1886, Stratton married Charles Porter. They had one daughter in 1887. While she expressed happiness with her family life, Stratton-Porter desired a more independent life traditionally unavailable to women in the late nineteenth century. Stratton-Porter began writing and photographing wildlife around her cabin near Limberlost Swamp, in Geneva, Indiana, just south of Fort Wayne. There she expressed her strong feelings towards nature and its preservation. Her words in What I Have Done with Birds (1907) reflect her goals: “For what small disturbance is unavoidable among you, forgive me, and through it I shall try to win thousands to love and shield you.” She spent significant time in Limberlost, and her family’s cabin became the site where she conducted field studies of Indiana’s natural environment. However, her beloved Limberlost faced great threats from the Indiana General Assembly, which passed legislation allowing for the drainage of the swamp. Stratton-Porter used her influence to defend Limberlost, but it was not enough, and the swamp was drained in 1913 to clear land for farming.
Later Life & Legacy
Exhausted by her fight for Limberlost and the physical strain she undertook for her work, Stratton-Porter checked herself into a clinic in New York in 1919. It was then that she decided to relocate to warm and sunny California. There she founded Gene Stratton-Porter Productions and adapted The Girl from Limberlost for film. She had only just begun to construct a home for herself surrounded by the nature she loved when she was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1924. Stratton-Porter fought hard to preserve Indiana’s natural resources. She expressed her love of the outdoors to the public in hopes of making them aware of their natural surroundings. In addition, Stratton-Porter made a life for herself that was very different from many women of her day by becoming financially independent. Her passion for the environment was praised for popularizing an awareness of nature in America.