Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Gene Stratton Porter, an early 20th century American woman writer, naturalist, and photographer who lived in Indiana, is best known for her fictional works The Girl of the Limberlost (1909) and Freckles (1904). However, her nonfiction works were her true calling as a writer of natural history; the most familiar are Moths of the Limberlost (1912), and Homing with the Birds (1919). While critics often relegated her fictional works to the genre of adolescent novels filled with sentiment and romance, she infused these works with the same messages of conservation and environmental concerns that she addressed in her non-fiction and especially focused upon the birds and moths of the Limberlost wetlands of northeastern Indiana. In this thesis, I will argue that critics have overlooked the environmental import of Stratton Porter's principal works of fiction, wrongly positioning her as a popular novelist and minor scientific observer, despite her fidelity to scientific field work. I will explicate how Stratton Porter, as a knowledgeable and sensitive nature writer, infuses her sentimental fiction with issues of the environment, conservation, and responsible stewardship of the land. She transmits these messages to her readers through fictional narrative as exemplified in The Girl of the Limberlost (1909), Freckles (1904), The Harvester (1911), and The Keeper of the Bees (1925), all of which pronounce her ecofeminism. Her nonfiction works, Moths of the Limberlost (1912), and (Homing with the Birds), and Let Us Highly Resolve (1927), while reaching a much more limited readership, reinforce the subtle ideas of her early fiction. She continuously fought frustration at the lack of endorsement she received from professional biologists and naturalists, despite her pioneering documentation of flora and fauna of the Limberlost and Midwestern regions. Although many of her scientific observations are now dated, a recognition of her contribution to American letters as an early ecofeminist is long overdue. Her ability as a writer stems from her easy melding of scientific writing and documentation with the formula of the popular romantic novel.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Stratton-Porter, Gene, 1863-1924 -- Criticism and interpretation
Natural history in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University