Ann Zwinger was born March 12, 1925, in Muncie,
Indiana. She was the daughter of William and Ann Haymond.
She spent most of her youth in Indiana, along the White River.
In 1946 Zwinger graduated from Wellesey College with a degree
in Art History. She finished her Masters in Art History at
Indiana University in
1950. After marrying ex-pilot Herman Zwinger in 1952, she
moved around the country, finally settling in Colorado Springs,
Colorado, where she wrote her first naturalist book. Since
then, Zwinger has authored over a dozen other naturalist books,
winning the prestigious Burroughs Award for Run, River,
Run. She has also appeared in numerous anthologies concerning
natural history. Zwinger is currently a professor at Colorado
Zwinger has had a significant
role in maintaining the well-being of the environment in the
Western states. She is member emeritus of the Colorado Nature
Conservancy and currently serves as a director of The Orion
Society and the John Burroughs Association. A naturalist history
consultant on the Green, San Juan, and Colorado Rivers, she
lectures and tours extensively to promote environmental awareness.
During her lifetime she has collaborated with several other
naturalist authors, including Edwin
Way Teale, and her own daughter, Susan.
Zwinger's writings primarily concern the western United States,
she has also written about her childhood home. In Run,
River, Run, a brief statement compares the mighty
in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah to the White River. In The
Near Sighted Naturalist, she has an essay entitled
"Remembering Indiana," in which she relates experiences
from her childhood home to her experiences now as an adult
in the West. In it, she states that Indiana is crucial to
her nature writings about the Rocky Mountains and the western
After I moved to the Rocky Mountains and began to write
about a western landscape that enticed and enchanted me
as an adult, I called upon the memories of my youth that
were imbedded in the back of my mind.... I came to a western
landscape as an outsider looking in; I could do so because
in Indiana I had learned how to be an insider looking out.
The fact that she grew up with the
richness of the Indiana landscape helps her see with clarity
the natural wealth of the West. Her familiarity with Indiana
landscapes, from the tranquility of the White River
in Muncie to the rolling
hills of Bloomington,
has allowed her to appreciate the uniqueness of the West.
She states that Indiana has become the basis for comparison
in her writings on the West.
Indiana has become my "type location,"
as a geologist would say, for judging and evaluating the
rest of my world. The West is the West because of what I
remember about Indiana. Its rolling hills and tranquil farms
are the contrast to the crags of Pikes Peak, which I see
out of my front door every morning. (6)
Zwinger also explains that childhood experience
is key to many Hoosier authors, as children need a sense of
stability and Indiana offers just that. She writes of her
own childhood, as well as Edwin Way Teale's.
Although we had gone in opposite directions--[Teale] east
and I west--we agreed not only that Indiana was a good place
to grow up, but that an essential quality necessary for
nature writing was fostered there, as well as a wonderful
optimism that we both shared. (5)
Zwinger considers herself a naturalist, but
explains that this is different from being an environmentalist.
She does not "try to persuade people into action toward
the environment" but she instead "communicates to
people the beauty of nature. We give you a lollipop, then
we convert you." According to Zwinger, being a naturalist
writer is "getting someone to look at [nature] and question
it. Curiosity is key, as is an interest in the world."
"Zwinger, Ann." Contemporary
Zwinger, Ann. The Near Sighted
Naturalist. Tucson: U. of Arizona P., 1998.
---. Run, River, Run. Tucson:
U. of Arizona P., 1975.
Promotional photo courtesy of Ann