When Marion Stoddart moved from Nevada to Groton, Massachusetts with her husband Hugh and three children in 1962, there were no laws regulating the waste disposal by industries on either the state or federal level. The Nashua River, running close to the home she had moved to, was highly polluted and considered one of the ten most polluted rivers in the country.
Making the decision to take on the impossible—clean up the Nashua River, Stoddart organized the Nashua River Clean Up committee, enlisting the help of thousands of ordinary citizens. Working tirelessly, she met with then Massachusetts Governor John Volpe, Fitchburg Mayor William Flynn, and executives of the paper mills polluting the river to lobby for the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act. In 1965, it became the first anti-water pollution bill enacted by any state. She then petitioned the Federal government successfully for the millions of dollars that had been promised to fight the pollution, demonstrating that change was possible.
To continue her work, Stoddart founded the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA), a nonprofit organization which is a model for resource protection and environmental education programs. As a result of Marion’s efforts and the work of the NRWA, the Nashua River is restored and clean and the NRWA is pursuing the path for federal designation as a Wild and Scenic River.
In 1987 Stoddart was honored with the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global 500 Award. In 1993 children’s author Lynne Cherry chronicled her work in the award-winning book A River Ran Wild. In 1993, Marion was profiled in National Geographic. A 30-minute documentary, “The Work of 1000” by Susan Edwards and Dorie Clark tells the story of her life and work.
Continuing her spirit of adventure, Stoddart founded a travel business for women over 40, leading trips around the world. Marion continues to be a role model for women today, sharing her story and motivating the next generation about the power each of us has to make a difference.