Marjorie Spock

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Marjorie Spock (September 8, 1904, New Haven, Connecticut  – January 23, 2008, Sullivan, Maine) was an environmentalist, author and poet, best known for her influence on Rachel Carson when the latter was writing Silent Spring . Spock was also a noted Waldorf teacher, eurythmist, biodynamic gardener and anthroposophist. [1]

New Haven, Connecticut City in Connecticut, United States

New Haven is a coastal city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It is located on New Haven Harbor on the northern shore of Long Island Sound in New Haven County, Connecticut, and is part of the New York metropolitan area. With a population of 129,779 as determined by the 2010 United States Census, it is the second-largest city in Connecticut after Bridgeport. New Haven is the principal municipality of Greater New Haven, which had a total population of 862,477 in 2010.

Sullivan, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Sullivan is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,236 at the 2010 census. The town was named for Daniel Sullivan, an early settler. Colloquially referred to as "Sully" or "the Sullivans" – like many Maine municipalities composed of villages with geographic designations of the town proper – the municipality was incorporated in 1789. Located in the Upper Schoodic Peninsula sub-region of Maine's Downeast Acadia region, the municipality has been known as "Waukeag", "New Bristol", and later Sullivan; and once included the nearby communities of Hancock, Sorrento, and what would later be Township 7, South & Middle Districts. Once home to abundant granite quarries, the town of Sullivan is now a residential community for nearby Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island. Located along U.S. Route 1, the Taunton River, and Hog Bay, Sullivan is home to a reversing tidal falls and many scenic turnouts that dot the Schoodic National Scenic Byway along the Upper Schoodic Peninsula.

Environmentalist someone who supports the goals of the environmental movement

An environmentalist is a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities". An environmentalist is engaged in or believes in the philosophy of environmentalism.



Marjorie Spock was born the second child and the first daughter of six children. Her Father Benjamin Spock was the General Solicitor of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroads, [2] Her older brother was Benjamin Spock, the world-renowned pediatrician and author of The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.

Benjamin Spock American pediatrician and author of Baby and Child Care

Benjamin McLane Spock was an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care (1946) is one of the best-selling volumes in history. The book's premise to mothers is that "you know more than you think you do."

<i>The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care</i> book by Benjamin Spock

Benjamin Spock's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care is one of the best-selling books of the twentieth century, selling 500,000 copies in the six months after its initial publication in 1946, and 50 million by the time of Spock's death in 1998. As of 2011, the book had been translated into 39 languages.

In 1922 at the age of 18, Spock decided to leave her formal education with plans of studying at Smith College, to study Eurythmy, and Anthroposophy in Dornach, Switzerland. [3] Spock studied at the Goetheanum where she met and worked with Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. She was present at the "Christmas Conference" of December 25, 1923 – January 1, 1924 when the Anthroposophical Society was founded. [1] Upon joining the Anthroposophical Society, Spock traveled with Steiner on his lecture cycles throughout Europe. [3]

Eurythmy expressive movement art associated with Anthroposophy

Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Marie von Sivers in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education, especially in Waldorf schools, and – as part of anthroposophic medicine – for claimed therapeutic purposes.

Anthroposophy philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th-century by esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to develop mental faculties of spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and specifically seek a precision and clarity in studying the spiritual world mirroring that obtained by natural historians in investigations of the physical world.

Goetheanum world center for the anthroposophical movement, including performance halls, in Dornach, Switzerland

The Goetheanum, located in Dornach, in the canton of Solothurn, Switzerland, is the world center for the anthroposophical movement.

When she returned to the U.S. in 1930, Spock moved to New York to teach at the Rudolph Steiner School. At 38 Spock received her BA and MA degrees from Columbia University, writing her masters thesis on Waldorf education. [3] Upon receiving her degree, she also taught at Dalton Middle School as well as The Fieldston Lower School and The Waldorf School in New York. [4]

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 near the Upper West Side region of Manhattan, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Waldorf education educational philosophy

Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. Its pedagogy strives to develop pupils' intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. The cultivation of pupils' imagination and creativity is a central focus.

Throughout her career, Spock published multiple books, pamphlets and articles about eurythmy and anthroposophy, including "Teaching as a Lively Art", "Eurythmy", and "Fairy Worlds and Workers: A Natural History of Fairyland", [2] as well as traveled and performed with multiple acting troops. [3] She also worked closely with Ehrenfried Pfeiffer within the biodynamic agriculture movement in the U.S. [1]

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer was a German scientist, soil scientist, leading advocate of biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophist and student of Rudolf Steiner.

Biodynamic agriculture method of organic farming

Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.

Following the lawsuit against the government for the aerial spraying of their farm, Spock and her friend Mary Richards, a eurythmist as well, moved to Maine where they continued to practice biodynamic farming. Spock became a mentor to many young farmers wanting to learn methods of growing biodynamic foods, as well as a leader in the development of community building techniques for the Community Techniques Study Group, intended to combat the divide within the Anthroposophical Society. [3]

Anthroposophical Society

The General Anthroposophical Society is an "association of people whose will it is to nurture the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world." As an organization, it is dedicated to supporting the community of those interested in the inner path of schooling known as anthroposophy, developed by Rudolf Steiner.

Spock died on January 23, 2008, Sullivan, Maine where she lived. [5]

Environmental activism

In the late 1950s, Marjorie Spock was a biodynamic gardener on Long Island, New York along with her friend Mary Richards, a digestive invalid with what is referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, who required a diet of organic and fresh produce. [2]

In the summer of 1957 the state and federal government began a massive aerial spraying over three million hectares of the Northeast, including Spock and Richards's land, with DDT mixed with fuel oil at least fourteen times a day in an attempt to eradicate the Gypsy Moth Disease. [1] [3]

With their crops, soil and livestock destroyed, Spock and Richards joined a pending application for an injunction to stop the US government from aerial spraying with a group of eleven other Long Island plaintiffs, including Robert Cushman Murphy. The initial attempt to hire a lawyer was difficult, as they were often denied on the ground that it was impossible to "win [a case] against the government". [1] However they eventually hired a local attorney who was interested in their devotion to biodynamic farming. [1] Their initial injunction was denied, with the judge claiming the evidence provided did not demonstrate the dangers of DDT. [3] The plaintiffs then brought a lawsuit to the US Federal Court in Brooklyn NY, after amassing more data and expert witnesses. Beginning on February 10, 1958, the suit was brought against the United States Government attempting to permanently halt the federal and state government form spraying their properties, and for damages. [2] [1] For Spock, the concern was for people’s health and the constitutional right for a property owner to manage her land free of government infringement. [6] [7]

The federal judge dismissed 72 uncontested admissions for the plaintiffs and denied their petition. After three years of exhausting all legal appeals the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960, however it was declined on a technicality. [2] The plaintiffs lost the case but won the right to enjoin the government, prior to a potentially destructive environmental activity, to provide a full scientific review of the proposed action. [6] [7] With this right to environmental review, Spock helped give rise to the environmental movement. [1] This case is often cited as the first modern environmental case brought by citizens. [1]

Throughout the three-year process, Spock wrote daily reports on the trials, and sent them to interested and influential friends of the case's progress. Rachel Carson heard of Spock's case and soon got the daily reports. Carson used the testimony from the experts that Spock had found in her own research. [1] Spock's case, along with a massive bird kill on Cape Cod, provided the impetus for Carson's book, Silent Spring ., [1] which is often noted for its role as a catalyst for the congressional hearings which banned the use of DDT in the United States. [3]




These two pamphlets have had a broad readership.


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Rudolf Steiner Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, economist and esotericist

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian clairvoyant, philosopher, social reformer, architect, economist and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.

Rachel Carson American marine biologist and conservationist

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People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) is an organization based in California in the United States which campaigns against the public funding of Waldorf methods charter schools alleging they violate the United States Constitution's separation of church and state. The group claims independent Waldorf schools and public Waldorf methods charter schools teach anthroposophical content, that this content is religious in nature, and that the schools disguise the anthroposophical content from the public. PLANS filed federal suit in 1998 against two California public school districts, Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District, to halt the Waldorf methods educational programs implemented in two of their schools. The case was ultimately dismissed on its merits in 2012.

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Alfred Cecil Harwood *05.01.1898 London (UK) †22.12.1975 Forest Row Sussex was a lecturer, Waldorf teacher, writer, editor and anthroposophist.

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Else Klink was director of the Eurythmeum Stuttgart, the first training centre for Eurythmy founded by Marie Steiner in 1923, from 1935 until 1991. In 1945 she established the Eurythmeum Stage Group, which she also led until 1991. Her work contributed centrally to establishing Eurythmy as a performing art within the culture of Europe and internationally.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Paull, John (2013) "The Rachel Carson Letters and the Making of Silent Spring", SAGE Open, 3(July):1-12.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Lear, Linda (1997). Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. Boston: Mariner Books.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1912-, Barnes, Henry,. Into the heart's land : a century of Rudolf Steiner's work in North America (First ed.). Great Barrington, MA. ISBN   1621480348. OCLC   890147245.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  4. Dancy, Rahima Baldwin (February 25, 2008). "Marjorie Spock, Rachel Carson, Eurythmy". Waldorf in the Home. Archived from the original on December 6, 2011.
  5. Marjorie Spock Obituary - Sullivan, Maine - Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  6. 1 2 Marjorie Spock obituary, The Ellsworth American, 30 January 2008. Accessed 2009-04-02.[ dead link ]
  7. 1 2 Greene, Jennifer (February 2008). "Obituary for Marjorie Spock" (PDF). Newsletter of the Portland Branch of Anthroposophical Society in Portland, Oregon. 4.2: 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 August 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015.