This comic shows the powerful link between Parkland students and their school's namesake.

In April 1917, Marjory Stoneman Douglas boarded a train in Miami with a bunch of other charismatic suffragettes.

Their destination was the state capital, Tallahassee, where they would eloquently make the case for women’s right to vote. “We could have been talking to a bunch of dead mackerel, for all the response we got,” said Douglas.

She had little respect for the “wool-hat boys,” the condescending, small-minded boors who were the state representatives. The women’s entreaties fell on stupid ears, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas would later remark that she was speaking “over the heads of the audience, to a future generation.”


That generation is here.

All illustrations by Sarah Lazarovic.

Over the past months, I’ve fallen in love with Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

I grew up not far from the school in Parkland that bears her name, where a mass shooting left 17 people dead and ignited a million young anti-violence activists. Yet, in my 20-odd sunburnt years in Florida, I had never once wondered who she was. The horror of the Parkland shooting changed all that.

How did I not know she had been Miami’s champion of women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the Everglades? How had I not known about this unconventional wit and writer and activist, the one who wore giant hats, slept until 10, wrote all day, and went dancing whenever she could?

Stoneman Douglas had fabulous oratory skills (if you don’t mind her saying so) that she got during her time at Wellesley College.

She referred to herself as "The Elocutioner," which was an apt superhero name for someone who could convince rowdy rooms to see straight on issues ranging from women’s rights to protecting migrant workers.

A reporter once remarked that “she had a tongue like a switchblade and the moral authority to embarrass bureaucrats and politicians and make things happen.”

Today, the energized students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas manifest their namesake’s strength of opinion and activism in a way I can’t imagine happening at a school with any lesser name, a Central High or a Riverdale.

Once upon a time, Stoneman Douglas’ literary agent sold one-liners that she authored to various publications. Now, the Twitter activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lob perfectly incisive zingers at Marco Rubio.

They are, in a very real way, her students.

It’s impossible not to imagine how proud Stoneman Douglas would have been of everything these students have done.

They were forced to become activists overnight, and they’ve handled the job so compellingly that the world is listening.

Stoneman Douglas herself took the long road to activism. For years she argued for good sense on many issues in her sharp and pleasantly zany Miami Herald column, "The Galley."

But it was only in time that she became the activist Florida needed her to be. “The Everglades: River of Grass,” Douglas’ first book, was published when she was 57. Of course, when you live to 108 — which she did — that’s barely middle age.

“River of Grass” sold hundreds of thousands of copies and forced the world to care about the Everglades. My favorite historical photo is of Douglas signing copies of her book in Burdines, a Florida department store where I spent my mall-rat years buying Hypercolor t-shirts.

Florida is a place where conservation and development fight eternally, so it’s less an irony than a matter of course that the city of Parkland owes its comfortable land to the partial draining of the Everglades. It’s something Marjory wouldn’t have liked. But Florida rarely says no to development, especially if it comes in the shape of a stucco strip mall with a nail salon and smoothie shop.

The Florida that Stoneman Douglas helped shape has many, many imperfections — but it’s certainly a more just and a more beautiful place because of her efforts.

What was so wonderful about Marjory Stoneman Douglas was her ability to staunchly advocate for animals, for plants, and for people — without letting setbacks and criticism defeat her tenacity or crush her wit.

Sound familiar?

This story originally appeared in YES! Magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Most Shared
Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Last month, the Chicago Public Library system became the largest in the country to eliminate late fees thanks to Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

While the move, which was implemented October 1, was intended to "remove unfair barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons," it had another positive outcome. Since the removal of overdue fees, along with the elimination of any outstanding charges on people's accounts, libraries across the city saw a surge in the return of overdue books over the last several weeks.

"The amount of books returned has increased by 240 percent…We're very, very happy to have that. … Those books have a value and cost money to buy. We want those assets back. We also want the patron to come back," Library Commissioner Andrea Telli said at a City Council budget hearing, the Chicago-Sun Times reports.

According to a press release from Lightfoot, late fees rarely have the impact they're intended to. "Research from other fine-free systems has indicated that fines do not increase return rates, and further that the cost of collecting and maintaining overdue fees often outweighs the revenue generated by them."

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

We all know that social media can be a cesspool of trolly negativity, but sometimes a story comes along that totally restores your faith in the whole thing. Enter the KFC proposal that started off being mocked and ended up with a swarm of support from individuals and companies who united to give the couple an experience to remember.

Facebook user Tae Spears shared the story with screenshots from Twitter, and the response has been overwhelming.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via Twitter / ESPN

Madison Square Garden in New York City is known for having hosted some legendary performances. George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in '71, Billy Joel's 12 sellouts in '06, and Carmelo Anthony's 62 points in a 2014 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats, just to name a few.

But it's hard to imagine one person holding the legendary arena in the palm of their hand quite like Pete DuPré, better known as "Harmonica Pete," did on Veterans Day.

Keep Reading Show less
popular