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Progressive Era to New Era
Conservation in the Progressive Era
The Fight for Conservation

In the early days of the American conservation movement, no individual was more important than Gifford Pinchot. Appointed as Chief of the Federal Forest Division by President Roosevelt, Pinchot believed that permanent sustainable use of the nation's resources must be developed on a foundation of rational and integrated public ownership and management. In his book The Fight for Conservation, excerpts of which appear below, Pinchot makes it clear that in order to protect and conserve resources, the nation's women must be actively involved. What roles for women does Pinchot outline? According to Pinchot, what is the relationship between conservation and patriotism?

View the entire document from which this excerpt was taken, from Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

THE success of the conservation movement in the United States depends in the end on the understanding the women have of it. No forward step in this whole campaign has been more deeply appreciated or more welcomed than that which the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations of women have taken in appointing conservation committees.

Patriotism is the key to the success of any nation, and patriotism first strikes its roots in the mind of the child. Patriotism which does not begin in early years may, enough it does not always, fail under the severest trials. I say "not always," for many men and women have proved their patriotic devotion to this country although they were born elsewhere. Yet, as a rule, it must begin with the children. And almost without exception it is the mother who plants patriotism in the mind of the child. It is her duty. The growth of patriotism is first of all in the hands of the women of any nation. In the last analysis it is the mothers of a nation who direct that nation's destiny. . . .

Women should recognize, if this task is to be carried out, one great truth above all others. That this Nation exists for its people, we all admit; but that the natural resources of the Nation exist not for any small group, not for any individual, but for all the people-in other words, that the natural resources of the Nation belong to all the people-that is a truth the whole meaning of which is just beginning to dawn on us. There is no form of monopoly which exists or ever has existed on any large scale which was not based more or less directly upon the control of natural resources. There is no form of monopoly that has ever existed or can exist which can do harm if the people understand that the natural resources belong to the people of the Nation, and exercise that understanding, as they have the power to do. . . .

Time and again, then, the women have made it perfectly clear what they can do in this work. Obviously the first point of attack is the stopping of waste. Women alone can bring to the school children the idea of the wickedness of national waste and the value of public saving. The issue is moral one; and women are the first teachers of right and wrong. It is a question of seeing what loyalty to the public welfare demands of us, and then of caring enough for the public welfare not to set personal advantage first. It is a question of inspiring our future citizens while they are boys and girls with the spirit of true patriotism as against the spirit of rank selfishness, the anti-social spirit of the man who declines to take into account any other interest than his own; those one aim and ideal is personal success. Women both in public and at home, by putting the men know what they think, and by putting it before the children, can make familiar the idea of conservation, and support us with a convincingness that nobody else can approach.

However important it may be for the timberman, the miner, the wagon-maker, the railroad man, the house-builder,- for every industry,-that conservation should obtain, when all is said and done, conservation goes back in its directest application to one body in this country, and that is to the children. There is in this country no other movement except possibly the education movement-and that after all is in a sense only another aspect of the conservation question, the seeking to make the most of what we have-so directly aimed to help the children, so conditioned upon the needs of the children, so belonging to the children, as the conservation movement; and it is for that reason more than any other that it has the support of the women of the Nation.
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View the entire document from which this excerpt was taken, from Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.