Marjorie Harris Carr

By Peggy Macdonald

Zoologist, environmental activist (Gainesville)

Years: 1915–1997

Remembered for: Leading Florida Defenders of the Environment’s successful campaign to halt construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Why you should know her:

Raised by naturalist parents in rural Bonita Springs, Marjorie Harris Carr witnessed profound changes to Florida’s environment during a life that spanned most of the 20th century. From a young age, she dreamed of becoming a zoologist. However, in 1936, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Florida State College for Women, Carr was denied admission to Cornell’s graduate program in ornithology due to her gender.

The discrimination did not end there. Carr lost her position as the first female federal wildlife technician because her boss at the Welaka National Fish Hatchery was uncomfortable working with a woman. Nonetheless, through this position Carr met the two great loves of her life: the Ocklawaha River, which she described as “dreamlike,” and Archie Carr, a pioneering sea turtle conservation biologist. After eloping to the Everglades, Marjorie and Archie were married for 50 years and had five children together.

In 1942, Marjorie Carr completed a master’s degree in zoology at the University of Florida. Her activist career began when Interstate 75 was constructed literally in her backyard, slicing through her family’s 200-acre Micanopy homestead.

Carr is best known for her decades-long devotion to freeing the Ocklawaha River, which was dammed during construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. As a founder and longtime president of Florida Defenders of the Environment, Carr helped bring about the canal’s demise when it was one-third complete. Although the lands that had been set aside for construction of the canal have been converted into the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, Carr’s dying wish that the dam would be removed has not yet happened.

Featured image: Marjorie Harris Carr at the Bass Laboratory in Englewood, 1937.