In the late 1800's having a stuffed bird on your hat was fashionable for ladies of high society. Birds such as Arctic terns, egrets, and owls decorated hats.
Harriet Hemenway was offended by this practice and worked with her cousin Minna Hall to found the first Audubon Society that actually had an impact on protecting birds and wildlife.
Harriet enlisted the help of her husband Augustus to work in the legislature . Laws were passed to prevent killing and using birds for decoration. Some of these laws are still in effect today.

Audubon, at 100, is still helping birds

By Robin Estrin, Associated Press writer

BOSTON -- The year was 1896, and fashionable women strutted around wearing ornate hats festooned with feathers. The more plumes, the better.
Harriet Lawrence Hemenway, a prominent Boston Brahmin and plumed hat-wearer herself, happened upon an article detailing the devastation feather hunters inflicted: heaps of skinned, dead birds left to rot and orphaned baby birds left alive to starve in their nests.

Mrs. Hemenway was horrified. She decided it was time to end the fashion statement that was killing up to 5 million American birds a year. Thus was born the Massachusetts Audubon Society, named in honor of the bird painter John James Audubon.
The group, the nation's first Audubon Society, turns 100 this month. Celebrations include a birthday party at the Statehouse on Thursday featuring a live peregrine falcon show.
The organization that began in the parlor of an outraged society lady now boasts 55,000 Massachusetts members, an annual operating budget of $1O million and a $65 million endowment.

With 24,000 acres at 18 staffed nature centers across Massachusetts, the society is the largest private conservation group in New England and is poised to grow even larger, said president Jerry Bertrand.
Expansion plans include a $6 million nature center on 63 acres at the former Boston State Hospital in Mattapan, slated for completion by 1998. And in Newburyport, 3.5 waterside acres that once included a restaurant will be converted into a bird-watching observation center by late next year.
At the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, the society's largest, 3 miles of river weave through 2,800 acres of meadow, swamp, ponds and islands. Hikers at the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon can spot deer, porcupine and wild turkeys roaming on the 1,435-acre site.

Mrs. Hemenway would be proud. Some of the plume birds facing extinction at the turn of the century are back in force, including the snowy egret.
By the 1920s, a combination of societal pressures and new laws made feathered hats a fashion faux pas. The Audubon Society, meanwhile, was gaining ground around the country. By the turn of the century, several states had their own Audubon groups, and in 1905, a national umbrella group was launched.

Today, the Massachusetts Audubon Society is one of 11 loosely linked state Audubon societies in the country. The state groups are independent of the National Audubon Society, which has 570,000 members in 40 states.
But the founding state chapter continues to lead the way, said John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society. "Massachusetts Audubon is the most successful state operation in the Audubon family," he said.