Rachel Carson: Proving the Competency of Femininity


  • Autumn Nieves Tulane University


In September of 1962, Rachel Carson published one of the most influential books of modern environmental science, Silent Spring. Her findings threatened to undermine the power of chemical pesticide companies, whose representatives criticized Carson fiercely. Not only were the attacks directed at Carson’s work and findings, but at Carson personally, besieging the scientist because of her gender. This particular type of attempted defamation is exclusive to the female experience. Women must defend the quality of their work, while also proving that the nature of being a woman does not make them unable to perform well. Carson had to prove that she was competent and her work credible. Her work in environmental science was unorthodox: Carson worked as a free-lance author rather than as an expert chemist, she presented information with poetic language, and she collected data by forming relationships with powerful male politicians. The lack of institutional support forced Carson to use these methods, which also highlighted more feminine skills. When defending herself and her findings, Carson faced the difficult task of combatting gender-based criticism when her female experience was apparent in her work.