By Althea R. Sherman
Written within the early a part of this century, Birds of an Iowa Dooryard is stuffed with meticulous and witty observations of species either avian and human.
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Extra resources for Birds of an Iowa Dooryard (Bur Oak Book)
This would have at least provided a record of what had been lost in the encroachment of white settlement. Sherman was dismayed by people in general and ornithologists in particular who took for granted or ignored the habitat requirements of birds. She recognized more than ninety years ago that loss of habitat was the fundamental cause worldwide of the decline in numbers and species of birds. Sherman would no doubt be heartsick today to see yards shaved just one or two inches high, roadsides mowed edge to fenceline, streams straight and naked, and prairie and forest nearly everywhere supplanted by beans, corn, and cattle.
Althea Rosina Sherman, born in 1853 in the first frame house on the Iowa prairie north of Dubuque, had four sisters and one brother. Her parents were pioneers who had trekked west from New York State to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1843 and had then moved on across the Mississippi River to Iowa two years later. Her father, Mark, was a cobbler and an investor in farm mortgages, and her mother, Melissa, was a pioneer mother with strong Victorian beliefs. They must have been unusual people for their time and place, since they sent all their surviving children to college.
She was the first woman, along with a neighbor who accompanied her, to be entertained at the Explorers Club in New York City in 1919. Sherman also gave talks about her bird work; locally, she spoke on "Our Birds and Ourselves" at a Farmersburg school program and read her "Birds Close at Hand" in Elkader High School, and nationally she was invited to speak on "Birds of an Iowa Dooryard" in front of the esteemed Linnaean Society of New York. Sherman was no stay-at-home. Whenever she could get the money she attended meetings as far away as Saint Louis and Boston.