Theodora Fletcher PA conservation figure

Theodora Cope Stanwell-Fletcher

January 4, 1906 -

Theodora Cope was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on January 4, 1906, and shortly after her birth the family moved to Susquehanna County. Teddy, her nickname, grew up on her father’s orchard farm. When she was eight years old, she began making a list of the birds, animals and plants that she saw.

When she was a girl, Teddy’s family started Dimock Nature Study Camp to share their interest in nature with others. During summer camping trips in the forest at the orchard and other wild places in Eastern Pennsylvania, Teddy, learned about natural history, camping skills, and formed her own attitudes and opinions towards nature.

Teddy was schooled at the Dimock four-room schoolhouse for all but three years of her childhood. She studied college coursework at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, majoring in Economic Geography to learn more about the relationship between humanity and nature. She obtained her Masters of Science at Cornell University in 1932, and then her Ph.D. in Vertebrate Ecology with a minor in ornithology and economic botany.

Theodora Cope met John Stanwell-Fletcher while studying birds and plants in Manitoba. The two were married on January 4, 1937. Teddy and her husband wished to live in untouched territory, so they moved to northern British Columbia where they lived for seven years. Together, they identified and listed over 300 animal and plant species, and sent specimens to the British Columbia Museum. Teddy wrote books about her time in northern British Columbia. Driftwood Valley, a diary she kept during her time in British Columbia, was a national best seller in 1946. The Tundra World and Clear Lands and Icy Seas: A Voyage to the Eastern Arctic are two other books written about her experience in subarctic Canada.

During her life, she spent countless hours with animals that most people would be wary of. She documented habits of rattlesnakes, snapping turtles and brown bats. Theodora and her father’s family donated land to create The Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, (which was later donated to the Nature Conservancy), so others may learn to observe and appreciate nature. She was elected to the Society of Woman Geographers, awarded the John Burroughs Metal, and was recognized by Mount Holyoke College.