“Do Not Tear Up My Earth” is an updated presentation originally created by the T. Harry Williams Center (THWCOH) in 2001, that features oral history excerpts from a project documenting women's involvement in Louisiana's grassroots environmental movement.

Peggy Frankland, an environmental activist since 1982, is the project's director who worked with the THWCOH to conduct the interviews, beginning in 1999. Frankland's ultimate goal was to gather stories to eventually write a book on the subject to document the valuable historical and cultural information that is often left out of mainstream history. Together, Frankland, Jennifer A. Cramer, and Sharon Dyer interviewed leaders in the state's environmental movement, the majority of whom were women. Frankland's work was aided by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Recently, the University Press of Mississippi published Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement, a book based on these oral histories, authored by Peggy Frankland with Susan Tucker. The book provides insights on the roots of this important social movement amidst Louisiana's growing oil boom and explores the dynamics between gender, race, religion, human rights, health care, politics, science, economics, and industry.

All of the oral histories used in the book are housed with The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, a division of LSU Libraries Special Collections. In addition, LSU Libraries Special Collections is the repository for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) Papers (Mss. 4876). For more information, please contact Jennifer A. Cramer at jabrah1@lsu.edu.

Photography by Gabriella Mills ca. 2000, courtesy of Peggy Frankland.

This presentation is copyrighted by LSU Libraries Special Collections.

Sister Helen Vinton

I guess I've always thought of us all belonging to the same family, really." - Sister Helen Vinton, New Iberia, LA: Implemented Buffer Zone for Pesticides
Lorna Bourg You know for a state that I love so much and to be proud to be from it's probably one of the most polluted, dirtiest places in the United States. And the people of Louisiana really, we deserve better than that and we need to get better than that. - Lorna Bourg, New Iberia, LA: Established Buffer Zones for Pesticides
Because I think we have been the David in just about all of these battles. Unfortunately, the goliaths are people that are using our resources, our tax dollars, jobs that we have provided them. And they have tried to destroy us with our own resources. - Theresa Robert, Burnside, LA: Responsible for the IT Decision
We've been having problems with the plant early on because I remember when it would explode, we didn't have an alarm but the whistle to go off, but the police would come in, I say police but the sheriffs would come and they would tell us to hurry up and get out, and we ran. Sometimes we were in our sleeping clothes, barefooted and we were running Old Spanish Trail where gators were, they had gators in there, they had moccasins crossing the road because don't forget we talking about swamp land.” - Debra Ramirez, Lake Charles, LA: Home Adjacent to Petro Chemical Plants; Fought Several Petro Chemical Companies Regarding Ground Water Contamination
The first thing when you get involved in these issues is the industry and the agencies didn't want to hear from the community. They treated them as hysterical housewives, raving idiots, not a clue about what was going on.‘How dare these people come in here and tell us how we should be doing our job? And how dare they think that we're going to accommodate them when we're trying to do our job? - Wilma Subra, New Iberia, LA: Responsible for Organizing and Representing, Furnished Technical Data to Numerous Groups
I wasn't quite hysterical. I think the first thing I was called is a meddlesome housewife, and I kind of liked it because that's what I was. I was a housewife, I had a baby on my hip and I was certainly going to meddle if they were going to meddle with me which is, you know, trying to convince me that garbage in my drinking water was good for me. - Mary Tutweiler, New Iberia, LA: Prevented Creation of a Commercial Solid Waste Landfill

Because they know that a woman is more stronger than a man and once you mess with a mother's child, you got a fight on your hands. - Rose Jackson, Belle Chasse, LA: Fights Issues in Chemical Corridor, Battled Hazardous Waste Landfill
I think a woman is going to take an issue and it's not going away because when you get . . . I know when I got on my soapbox with the landfill I wasn't backing off . . . and then when I took on the oilfield facility, I wasn't backing off and so certainly I think women are more dedicated to seeing a project complete and I wanted that landfill cleaned up or straightened up, or closed, and I wasn't going to stop until something happened. - Clara Baudoin, House of Representatives, Carencro, LA: Baudoin and Flo Gossen were Responsible for the Closure of a Commercial Solid Waste Landfill
And I'm a very, very spiritual person. I feel that this world was given to us as stewards, for us to take care of and we're not the ones that should be destroying it. I have a very strong belief in God and this was God's message to me that you don't tear up My Earth, it was given to you. - Shirley Goldsmith, Founded CLEAN; One of First Activists to Emerge in LA; Stopped Ocean Incinerator; Closed Willow Springs Landfill