Famous Voices of the Movement

Ecofeminism, at least in concept, originated in France, with Françoise d’Eaubonne’s publication of Le Féminisme ou la Mort, translated as “Feminism or Death.” D’Eaubonne wrote about the reduction of women to the status of a minority, despite their importance in numbers and in reproduction, and discussed the issue of overpopulation. Throughout history men have held greater power over women, and therefore, “Women must act to save themselves and the earth simultaneously” [1]. In a further discussion of ecofeminism, d’Eaubonne highlights her belief that the tie between women and the Earth still exists and sometimes shows itself, using the example of female-led anti-nuclear protests. D’Eaubonne felt both humanity and the Earth were at risk of extinction, and believed only a revolution could change this. Her words, in their very essence, created the ecofeminist movement. It was only a matter of time before the United States found her book and began their own version of it. 

One of the most well-known voices of ecofeminist thought was Carolyn Merchant, with one of her books, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, inspiring millions. Her opening line brings back that ancient connection mentioned previously, as she wrote, “Women and nature have an age-old association—an affiliation that has persisted throughout culture, language, and history” [2]. Within this highly influential text, she discusses how looking at history through feminist eyes means turning it upside down, viewing social structure “from the bottom up” [3]. Merchant’s text, published in 1980, called for a reexamination of the environmental issues and how they were connected to many aspects of human life—in technology, the economy, and science. The Death of Nature was life-changing for many, as her words were some of the most well-developed and absorbed during this time. 

An Ecofeminist Book Club

Beside Merchant was Ynestra King, a powerful writer, and author of many works, including “The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology.” In this text she explores the way history moved away from a feminine Earth, writing, “With the disenchantment of nature came the conditions for unchecked scientific exploration and technological exploitation” [4]. Society found its footing now in scientific facts and moved away from a philosophic understanding of the world. In addition, King sought to highlight a very important point: that by practicing ecofeminism, humans can “consciously choose not to sever the woman-nature connection by joining male culture” [5]. King, both in her texts and outside them, argued for a new awareness of women and the world, and advocated against war and the destruction of the Earth. 

In 1975, just a year after Le Féminisme ou la Mort was published, Rosemary Ruether brought New Woman, New Earth into the world. It is marked as one of the earliest attempts of ecofeminist analysis, and set the stage for all future ecofeminists. Ruether took on discussing liberation and domination, for women and by men, respectively, and encouraged change in societal structure. She wrote, “They [women] must unite the demands of the women’s movement with those of the ecological movement to envision a radical reshaping of the basic socio-economic relations and the underlying values of this society” [6]. She discussed sexism and how deeply rooted it was, separating it between socioeconomic sexism and psychological sexism. She felt society must start with removing sexism, and then moving into nature and its connections.

Among these famous ecofeminists authors and activists is one particular environmentalist, Rachel Carson. When her book Silent Spring was published in 1962, ecofeminism was not yet created. However, this does not make her text any less impactful to the ecofeminist movement. Environmental activism has existed for hundreds of years, but without Rachel Carson’s book, the environmental movement of the Second Wave might have never begun, or at least would have remained dormant a bit longer. Without the environmental movement’s new power, the ecofeminist movement would not have had the support that it needed. Silent Spring, written about the ecological toll pesticides were making on the Earth, completely gripped the nation, as the Americans were largely unaware of what was going on. The support Carson received was monumental, but so was the backlash. She was threatened because she was a woman, an independent scholar without proper institutional ties, and represented determination against the biggest corporations in the United States. Ecofeminists of the 1970s and 1980s took lines like, “The “control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man,” and the negative male responses she received, and gave Carson the respect and support she was due [7].


[1] Gates, Barbara. "A Root of Ecofeminism: Écoféminisme." Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 3, no. 1 (1996): 7-16. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44085413.



[4] King, Ynestra. “The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology.” In Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, edited by Judith Plant, 18–27. Philadelphia PA: New Society Publishers, 1989.

[5] King, Ynestra. “The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology.”

[6] Mellor, Mary. "NEW WOMAN, NEW EARTH—SETTING THE AGENDA." Organization & Environment 10, no. 3 (1997): 296-308. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26161525.

[7] Smith, Michael B. ""Silence, Miss Carson!" Science, Gender, and the Reception of "Silent Spring"." Feminist Studies 27, no. 3 (2001): 733-52. doi:10.2307/3178817.

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