Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson : biography

May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964

Carson was inundated with speaking engagements, fan mail and other correspondence regarding The Sea Around Us, along with work on the documentary script that she had secured the right to review. She was very unhappy with the final version of the script by writer, director and producer Irwin Allen; she found it untrue to the atmosphere of the book and scientifically embarrassing, describing it as "a cross between a believe-it-or-not and a breezy travelogue.". Quotation from a letter to Carson’s film agent Shirley Collier, November 9, 1952. Quoted in Lear, 239. She discovered, however, that her right to review the script did not extend to any control over its content. Allen proceeded in spite of Carson’s objections to produce a very successful documentary. It won the 1953 Oscar for Best Documentary, but Carson was so embittered by the experience that she never again sold film rights to her work.

Relationship with Dorothy Freeman

Carson moved with her mother to Southport Island, Maine, in 1953, and in July of that year met Dorothy Freeman (1898–1978) — the beginning of an extremely close relationship that would last the rest of Carson’s life. The nature of the relationship between Carson and Freeman has been the subject of speculation. Carson met Freeman, a summer resident of the island along with her husband, after Freeman had written to Carson to welcome her. Freeman had read The Sea Around Us, a gift from her son, and was excited to have the prominent author as a neighbor. Carson’s biographer, Linda Lear, writes that "Carson sorely needed a devoted friend and kindred spirit who would listen to her without advising and accept her wholly, the writer as well as the woman." She found this in Freeman. The two women had a number of common interests, nature chief among them, and began exchanging letters regularly while apart. They would share summers for the remainder of Carson’s life, and meet whenever else their schedules permitted.

Though Lear does not explicitly describe the relationship as romantic, others (such as the encyclopedia glbtqCaryn E. Neumann, , glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, & queer culture; retrieved February 22, 2007) have noted that Carson and Freeman realized that the letters could be interpreted as lesbian, even though "the expression of their love was limited almost wholly to letters and very occasional farewell kisses or holding of hands". Freeman shared parts of Carson’s letters with her husband to help him understand the relationship, but much of their correspondence was carefully guarded.

Shortly before Carson’s death, she and Freeman destroyed hundreds of letters. The surviving correspondence was published in 1995 as Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964: An Intimate Portrait of a Remarkable Friendship, edited by Freeman’s granddaughter. According to one reviewer, the pair "fit Carolyn Heilbrun’s characterization of a strong female friendship, where what matters is ‘not whether friends are homosexual or heterosexual, lovers or not, but whether they share the wonderful energy of work in the public sphere’". quoting from:

The Edge of the Sea and transition to conservation work

Early in 1953, Carson began library and field research on the ecology and organisms of the Atlantic shore. In 1955, she completed the third volume of her sea trilogy, The Edge of the Sea, which focuses on life in coastal ecosystems (particularly along the Eastern Seaboard). It appeared in The New Yorker in two condensed installments shortly before its October 26 book release by Houghton Mifflin (again a new publisher). By this time, Carson’s reputation for clear and poetical prose was well established; The Edge of the Sea received highly favorable reviews, if not quite as enthusiastic as for The Sea Around Us.

Through 1955 and 1956, Carson worked on a number of projects—including the script for an Omnibus episode, "Something About the Sky"—and wrote articles for popular magazines. Her plan for the next book was to address evolution, but the publication of Julian Huxley’s Evolution in Action—and her own difficulty in finding a clear and compelling approach to the topic—led her to abandon the project. Instead, her interests were turning to conservation. She considered an environment-themed book project tentatively entitled Remembrance of the Earth and became involved with The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups. She also made plans to buy and preserve from development an area in Maine she and Freeman called the "Lost Woods".