Inspirational Activist: Marion Stoddart and the Nashua River Watershed

Tonight I saw a screening of Susan Edwards’ The Work of 1000, a film about the mother, homemaker and environmental activist, Marion Stoddart.  After the film Susan and Marion spoke with us about Marion’s work and the choices she made during her life. 

Nashua River in the 1960s dyed
red from the paper mill
Photo from

In the 1960’s Marion was a young mother in Groton, MA raising three young children when she became passionate about cleaning up the Nashua River.  This river ran three quarters of a mile behind her home and was not only unsafe for swimming or boating, it was dangerous to fall into it.  Not only was raw sewage was being dumped into the river – they didn’t have water treatment plants back then, but also industrial waste from a paper factory which was turning the river a different bright color, e.g., red, depending on the color dyes being used each day.  Marion turned her house into her office and turned her life into a mission to clean up the Nashua river.  She struggled with the balance of giving her children the attention they deserved and driving forward her campaign to clean up the river.  She said that she was motivated by the desire to have the Nashua River a place where her children and other children could use and enjoy it.  She decided that she was going to make it her life’s work to clean up the river.   She was happily surprised that within 15 years of beginning her campaign laws were passed – both state and federal, practices were changed, money was raised and the river began to come back to life and was safe again for recreational uses.

As a mother of young children myself, and in some some senses, an environmental activist, her story was very moving for me and really hit home.  I work on energy and environmental issues with everything I do.  It’s in this blog, my part-time job, my volunteer work with the church, my interactions with the PTO at my children’s school and my volunteer work with the entire school system.  My environmentalism even comes into play in every aspect of my social life.  I find that everyone from my closest friends to my newest casual acquaintances ask me practical questions about environmental issues.  I love it.  I’m passionate about the topic and I’m always happy to discuss cloth diapers, composting, gardening, CFLs, insulation, energy assessments, high efficiency condensing boilers, the importance of routine maintenance on HVAC systems and the relative merits of solar PV systems versus solar thermal systems.  Sometimes it becomes difficult to balance my passion with the time I spend with my children and taking care of my home.  It’s a good thing that there are many opportunities to combine all three.

Marion’s children have said that they understand the wonderful work their mother has done, and while it was hard on them as children to not have a mom that baked cookies like the other mothers, her children feel that they lived a charmed and inspired life and they are very proud of the work their mother has done.  I hope that when my children are grown they are influenced by what I have done, appreciate the time I have spent doing it and still feel that being good to the environment is important and that they make good environmental choices.

Marion helped me understand that it is OK to make choices and to sometimes choose to work on my environmental projects instead of making cookies for the children – or in my case – instead of folding their laundry before they wear it.   There isn’t time for everything and sometimes the example of seeing their parents work at something that is important to them and that they are passionate about is just as important as the day to day parenting that you do.

Marion’s work is important, and continues to this day.  She continues to work with the Nashua River Watershed Association and local governments to create greenways and access to the river.  She reminds me of why it is so important to appreciate and preserve the beautiful nature around us, because if we are not careful,  it might not always be there.   The Nashua River is an example of a river that almost wasn’t.

Marion’s DVD is available for private purchase and it is possible to arrange for public screenings. Please see their site for details. Marion believes strongly that any individual who chooses to can change the world.  She has written a leadership handbook that you can find on their site called Commit! A Leadership Handbook.  Check it out and let me know what you think. 

You and I can change the world too.

Happy Greening!


  1. Thank you for inviting us! Marion talks about the synergy that develops when we work together to solve problems. I was energized by meeting new people and learning about what folks are doing in their personal and professional lives to love, care, and protect our planet.

    BTW–your kids looked wonderful 😉

  2. What a great inspiration! It’s crazy to think how badly we treated the earth only 50 years ago. I, too, try to find time to balance between work, home, and quality time w/ the family. I feel that laundry is the least of my worries!!

Speak Your Mind