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June 2020

Vol. 48, No. 3

Frances Hamerstrom, a Flamboyant Ornithologist

William E. Davis, Jr.


Frances Hamerstrom's research helped preserve the Wisconsin population of Greater Prairie Chickens. Photograph by Gregory Smith.

Fran Hamerstrom was born Frances Flint in December 1907 to a prominent and wealthy Boston family. Her father was an international criminologist and Frances spent four of her early years in Europe, where she became fluent in French and German. Her parents intended to bring her up well educated and well connected so that she could marry into prominent social circles. Early in life Frances decided her future would be otherwise as she developed a fascination for the natural world. She was unconventional from an early age, becoming, for example, a cigarette smoker at age six, reacting perhaps against an authoritarian father. Also at age six, while in Europe, she captured a hare, which became her first pet, and saw her first Golden Eagle.

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