In the late 1800s and early 1900s birds all over the world were hunted down and slaughtered for their feathers to be used to adorn ladies' hats. In 1896, Boston high society woman Harriet Hemenway read an article that described in graphic detail the effects of plume hunting— millions of dead birds and starving chicks left to die in the nests. Harriet was shocked by the horror caused because of a society-imposed fashion. She took the article and marched across the street to the home of her cousin, another member of Boston’s elite, Minna B. Hall.
The two women began to develop a strategy to put a halt to killing birds for the fashion industry. Harriet and Minna held tea parties and invited women wearing feathered hats and explain the back story of where those feathers came from. Harriet and Minna must have used a lot of tact. Not only would many of these women eschew wearing feathered hats but would hold their own tea parties to encourage other women to protect the birds. Eventually the group grew to over 900 women who vowed to discourage the buying and wearing of feathers. They boycotted milliners who used feathers to make hats—first in Massachusetts which later spread across the country. That year Harriet and Minna began the Massachusetts Audubon Society. By 1897 there were 111 local Audubon chapters in Massachusetts, 105 of which were founded and led by women. Societies sprang up across the country and many were eventually incorporated into the National Audubon Society in 1905.
Surely woman would have eventually realized how ridiculous they looked wearing birds on their heads and stopped at some point. But because of Harriet and Minna, that practice was stopped sooner and saved countless birds and probably even some species.
My (featherless) hat goes off to these amazing women.