Harrison helps found Society of Woman Geographers

Back in New York, Marguerite busied herself making ready for the premiere of Grass. She tried to help write the narration for the silent film, but she found herself at odds with her partners. She disliked the melodramatic script the editors wrote, complaining that they put artificial speeches into the mouths of simple nomads. She wanted to tell the story of the migration in simple, straightforward language, but she was overruled.

Marguerite saw movie just once after its release. “After that I could not set foot in the theater again. I could not bear to see it on the screen because I loathed the manner in which it was presented,” she said.

She amicably parted with Cooper and Schoedsack, leaving them to become Hollywood stars while she resumed writing and speaking.

Although she had observed political and social upheavals in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and had interviewed some of the most important statesmen in the world, she felt she wasn’t given the credit and respect she was due. She bristled when journalists pestered her with what she thought were silly questions, such as whether she had had a love affair with a Bolshevik commissar, wore lipstick in the desert, or slept with an Arab sheik. She wanted to discuss her views on foreign policy and the events shaping the postwar world, not sensational gossip.

She shared her complaints with a small circle of women travelers, including Blair Niles, who lived among tribes in Southeast Asia; Gertrude Matthews, who had traveled through Africa; and Gertrude Emerson, an Asian expert. They had all suffered the same indignities and, despite their accomplishments, were not allowed membership in the prestigious Explorers Club in New York.

So they decided to do something about it. In 1925 they founded the Society of Woman Geographers, which would grow to an international organization whose members included Amelia Earhart, Margaret Mead, and Mary Douglas Leakey.

Society of Woman Geographers, 1932, seven years after Marguerite Harrison helped start it.

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