Marya Repko’s brief books bring Old Florida to life

“Grandma of the Glades: A Brief Biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” by Marya Repko. ECity Publishing. 80 pages. $10.00

This flavorful biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a primer on the life, times, works, and significance of a major figure in southern Florida’s modern history. Ms. Repko begins with a thumbnail history of Florida, after which she focuses on early Miami and its attraction for Marjory’s father, printer-publisher Frank Bryant Stoneman. Mr. Stoneman fit right into the Miami scene, which he entered in 1903. He had already published a newspaper in Orlando, and soon after establishing himself in Miami he founded a newspaper in his new home town that became, with Mr. Stoneman as editor, the Miami Herald.

Marjory Stoneman , born in 1890, spent her early years living with her mother’s family (her parents had separated when she was five yours old). In 1915, having graduated from Wellesley College three years earlier, she left an ill-fated marriage behind and joined her father in Miami.

Marya Repko traces Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s stint as society editor for the Herald, her WWI interlude working abroad for the American Red Cross and writing dispatches from various points in Europe, and then her return to the Herald as a columnist in 1920.

Ms. Douglas gradually became a devoted Floridian, active in social and civic affairs. Most notably, she participated in the state and national park efforts. She became an ardent conservationist, directing her considerable talents as a writer and speaker to promoting and celebrating such achievements as the Everglades National Park.

In 1947, Ms. Douglas published her masterpiece, “The Everglades: River of Grass.” Marya Repko traces the genesis and reception of this book, as well as the flood of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that followed. All had Florida themes and manifest the concerns of a cultural and biological environmentalist.

Ms. Repko takes us through the middle and late decades of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s exceptionally long life, underscoring her nonstop, forceful efforts for judicious management of Florida’s resources and for Everglades restoration in particular. Bolstered by a generous assortment of black and white photos, “Grandma of the Glades” is a great way to make the acquaintance of this dynamo of a woman.  A list of recommended readings encourages further study.

The entire article, which includes interview material with Marya Repko, appears in the March 30, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 31 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly. Click here: Florida Weekly – Marya Repko

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