In 1938, Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter were the first botanists to run the river rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. At the time women in science were a rarity. While botany was considered acceptable for women, it was news-making and controversial for women to go on the actual expeditions to collect plant samples.
Brave the Wild River (2023) is an incredibly adventurous account of their pioneering trip. From Clover and Jotter’s journals, Melissa Sevigny captures the perils of the river and the fascinating group dynamics of the expedition. Besides the mapping, collecting, pressing and cataloging of plants, the two women were entirely responsible for the traditional duties of camp life and cooking. The barriers that they were up against in the 1930s are not surprising, yet the pushback and negative news coverage is frustrating to look back on.
Their death-defying survival of the river itself is amazing. Even more so, is the awe-inspiring impact that their scientific research had for decades and decades to come. Readers of The Doctors Blackwell will especially enjoy this read.