Sally Carrighar '22

Alumnae Achievement Awards 1977

Sally Carrighar '22


Sally Carrighar, born Dorothy Wagner before adopting her grandmother’s name, was a famous nature writer. Born into a troubled family, Sally’s childhood made her easily susceptible to illness, and she learned to quietly observe the emotions and actions of others – a skill that proved useful when she was researching for her novels. She attended Wellesley College for two years and left due to sickness, but she described her experience at Wellesley as one that gave her confidence in her writing and in herself. 

After years of holding various jobs, such as an agent in Hollywood, a magazine editor, and a financial accountant, Sally discovered her love of nature writing and the outdoors. She began to work with the University of California and California Academy of Science to learn more about ethology, the study of animal behavior. Once she had saved up some money, Sally began her first nature book, One Day on Beetle Rock, which was published seven years later in 1944. After publishing articles in several magazines, Sally began her second book, One Day on Teton Marsh. This book studies a much more dangerous aquatic environment than her first and also has a larger message about the impact of humans on animals. These two books had critics hailing that Sally Carrighar was “the most imaginative and poetic nature writer in this country,” and “like no one else who has ever written about animals, birds, and insects.” At this time, she won her first of two Guggenheim Fellowships, which helped support her next projects in Alaska.

In total, Sally spent almost a decade in Alaska and published three books. The first, Icebound Summer, examines the atmosphere in the part of Alaska that is exposed only during the summer and is similar in style to her first two works. The second, Moonlight at Midday, is a historical and sociological study of Alaskans during their quest for statehood. And finally, Wild Voice of the North profiles her Siberian husky dog that was given to her by neighbors who were moving away.

Sally Carrighar also wrote The Glass Dove, a fiction novel based on her family history, Wild Heritage, a defense of ethology which is often criticized for imposing human characteristics upon animals, an autobiography called Home to the Wilderness, and The Twilight Seas, which focuses on the life of a blue whale, the largest species on earth. Sally died at the age of 87 in 1985 in Carmel, California.


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