Here’s the story of a woman from the North who taught us about the fragility of inhospitable places. And that they are not necessarily so for everyone. Another kind heroine, featured here in the Journal.
Margaret Thomas was born in 1902 in Seattle, Washington. But there was something even further north. Something beckoning? For one thing, her university studies in Fairbanks, Alaska. Where she was the first woman to graduate.
Her honeymoon with Olaus Murie – who called her Mardie and whose last name she took – was in Alaska aboard a sleigh, following the reindeer tracks that her husband studied. Upon their return, they built Murie Ranch in the forests of Wyoming.
Olaus was a wildlife biologist. A sort of reindeer sociologist. He understood that the reason for their population decline was not due to wolves, which hunt them in the wild, but rather the human-led work of breeding more reindeer.
The best-seller about their lives, Two in the Far North, was written by Mardie. On the cover, along (of course) with the reindeer, is Olaus’ name and «distinguished biologist.» What about her? «Young Bride.» «Travel companion.» Is that all? Not exactly.
AN ARCTIC REFUGE
The book came out in 1962. Olaus died the following year. But the nature reserves, which the Muries fought hard to create, grew in size by a few million more acres, with just Mardie working in the Wilderness Society.
Arctic Refuge. That’s the name of the reserve that the two – and then she alone (one) – defended in Alaska. They challenged the fragility of the North. And they taught us (from this corner of America) that a harsh word (arctic!) can be paired with a word of salvation. Salvation for whom? You guessed it. (The reindeer).