The University of Wisconsin Press

Environment / Autobiography / Women’s Studies


My Double Life
Memoirs of a Naturalist
Frances Hamerstrom
Illustrations by Elva Hamerstrom Paulson

A North Coast Book

“I can think of no finer book to be read to my 6-year-old granddaughter, or by her 12-year-old cousin. . . . Like James Herriot’s stories, these are full of humor and of wonderful characters, the best of whom is the author herself. Among the episodes is her story of trying at age 7 to give herself a toothache by skewering her gums with a pencil, because visits to the dentist were followed by visits to a museum insect exhibit.”
—Gerry Rising, The Buffalo News

“Raised amid wealth and privilege in Germany and the United States, Frances Hamerstrom was groomed to preside over an elegant, extensive household. She rebelled at the prospect and turned to field biology at a time when most educated women were either schoolteachers or governesses. Hamerstrom married a fellow scientist she adored, and the couple spent the next several decades happily studying prairie chickens, an endangered bird native to Wisconsin. Instead of a diplomatic salon, she managed a ramshackle farmhouse, often filled with dozens of bird watchers, and published learned papers. Her lively memoir presents an entertaining picture of a singular life.”
Los Angeles Times

Fran Hamerstrom wasn’t a very nice child. Don’t take my word for it, read her latest book, My Double Life: Memoirs of a Naturalist. She drank, she smoked, she smuggled cold cream out of the house to grease her guns. . . . And from this sordid beginning, she grew up to be a renowned naturalist and writer. Hamerstrom is now 86 years old and still raising a little hell all the way to the upper reaches of the Amazon River, where she goes periodically. . . . An entertaining read if you like wildlife, and even if you don’t.”
—George Rogers, The Stevens Point Journal

Hamerstrom traces her concern for wildlife in part to her failure to take action when, as a girl in Massachusetts, she heard that a fire was threatening the nearby state reservation set aside for the heath hen. . . . ‘The wind swept hot crackling fire over the nests and eggs of an endangered race,’ she writes; ‘it reared in the treetops by the courts. We kept playing tennis.’ A few years later the bird was extinct, but a career of working to save animals had begun.”
Washington Post Book World

Frances Hamerstrom has published twelve books, including An Eagle to the Sky, Walk When the Moon is Full, and The Wild Food Cookbook. She is the author of more than 150 scientific papers and has twice won the Wildlife Society Award. With her late husband Frederick, she won the 1971 National Wildlife Federation Award for Distinguished Service to Conservation.

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cover of the Hamerstrom book in a green tinted photo of the author with a wild bird.

September 1994

328 pp.   6 x 9
115 illus.  

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