This Women’s History Month, we asked our staff to share a woman who has been an inspiration to them and why. Family members, local heroes, or world renowned environmental celebrities, below is a list of women who have made a difference in our lives. We would love to hear about the women who have inspired you!
During Women’s History Month, I would like to highlight someone who has inspired me in my work—my sister, Laura-Gray Street.
We grew up spending lots of time on the Chesapeake Bay, but neither of us was particularly outdoorsy. However, our parents had a deep love of nature, which planted a seed that blossomed throughout both of our careers, though we arrived at our environmental focus from opposite directions. While I came at it from a science and management side, Laura-Gray took the literary route. She is now an English professor at Randolph College in Lynchburg, located along the James River just after it punches through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Through her passion for the environment, Laura-Gray has produced a remarkable collection of award-winning literature, including The Ecopoetry Anthology. This work spans the classic writings of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to her own contributions and those of her colleagues. She also co-edited A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia. Additionally, she has dedicated significant time to environmental efforts through Greater Lynchburg Environmental Network and is currently a fellow at the Black Earth Institute.
Over my career, I have found that one’s stewardship of the environment is proportional to one’s connection to it. Poetry is a powerful way for people to connect to nature and discover its deeper meanings. Keep making history, Sis!
My inspiration is my mom. My mom was a National Park Service Ranger for 38 years. Her love for history and the great outdoors instilled in me a passion to protect the environment at an early age. I remember in the summers wanting to go to work with her any chance I could get to help with educational programs. She was an excellent educator and even won a National Award from the Park Service. This gave me the drive to get into the environmental field. Fast forward many years and I am leading education programs for JRA and working closely with the National Park Service. My education team and I even received a National Award from the Park Service in August. I have my mom to thank for showing me that hard work and dedication pay off. Thank you, mom, for also showing me at a young age that we need to protect the environment and the best way to do that is by educating our youth.
From environmentalist to entrepreneur, Rue Mapp is a woman I deeply respect for her commitment to creating awareness and opportunities to make nature and natural connections more inclusive. Mapp founded Outdoor Afro, a non-profit that “celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.”
The beginnings of Outdoor Afro have been fondly documented as Mapp blogging at her kitchen table, and fourteen years later the organization has grown into a national movement connecting Black people with nature through recreation, conservation, outdoor education, and leadership opportunities in 60 cities across the country.
Mapp has gone on to become an internationally-known leader in the environmental community, a speaker, and author of the book “Nature Swagger”, while still growing Outdoor Afro’s efforts as CEO of an all-woman staff. In addition to her work advancing racial equity through natural spaces, I love how it fosters the enjoyment, exhilaration, and education nature provides.
Sylvia Earle is an inspiration. I recommend watching her documentary, Mission Blue, highlighting her incredible career and pioneering work for our Oceans.
I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring while studying at the University of Mary Washington. It was an enlightening read and one of a few books I read around that time in my life that inspired me to pursue a career in conservation.