IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Shop > Books Listed by Topic > The Indiana Historian > Gene Stratton-Porter > "a little bird woman" "a little bird woman"

Gene Stratton-Porter's passion for nature began very early. She related in Homing with the Birds that she was just a small child, nursing a chicken hawk, when her mother remarked to her, "What a little bird woman you are!" It was true.

She was fascinated by the birds that lived on her father's farm near Lagro, Wabash County. She wrote, in What I Have Done with Birds,

In one season, when under ten years of age, I located sixty nests, and I dropped food into the open beaks in every one of them. Soon the old birds became so accustomed to me, and so convinced of my good intentions, that they would alight on my head and shoulders in a last hop to reach their nests with the food they had brought. Playing with the birds was my idea of fun. Pets were my sort of dolls. It did not occur to me that I was learning anything that would be of use in after years; now comes the realization that knowledge acquired for myself in those days is drawn upon every time I approach the home of a bird.

Her father was aware of her great love for birds. In Homing with the Birds, Mrs. Porter revealed to her readers his very special gift:

He then proceeded formally to present me with the personal and indisputable ownership of each bird of every description that made its home on his land. . . . In that hour I was almost dazed with the wonder and the marvel of my gift, and to-day, after a lifetime of experience among the birds, this gift seems even more wonderful than it did then.

Mrs. Porter developed a unique philosophy of bird study, demonstrating her love and respect for nature; she explained it in What I Have Done with Birds:

This is the basis of all my field work,--a mute contract between woman and bird. In spirit I say to the birds, "Trust me and I will do by you as I would be done by. Your nest and young shall be touched as I would wish some giant, surpassing my size and strength as I surpass yours, to touch my cradle and baby. I shall not tear down your home and break your eggs or take your naked little ones from the nest before they are ready to go, and leave them to die miserably. I shall come in colors to which you are accustomed, and move slowly and softly about, not approaching you too near until your confidence in me is established. I shall be most careful to feed your young what you feed them; drive away snakes and squirrels, and protect you in every way possible to me. Trust me, and go on with your daily life. For what small disturbance is unavoidable among you, forgive me, and through it I shall try to win thousands to love and shield you".