Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 1, Page 14
Fall 1992
'The Swamp Lady' 

      Millie Ludwig, Delaware '43 '64 M, is retired, but she's far from
finished working. A resident of Earleville, Md., Ludwig is a nationally
recognized environmentalist who has fought and won battles over proposed
incinerators, sludge dumping and land developments in her backyard--the
awe-inspiring Chesapeake Bay. And she has helped thousands of others to win
their own battles.
      "I don't get paid, but I love what I do," she says," and it needs to
be done, so I do it. What I can't understand is why more people don't do
      Ludwig, who studied biology at Delaware, has developed a reputation
over the last three decades as an effective resource for environmentalists.
She doesn't go out "into the field" much anymore, but still regularly
receives visitors, phone calls and letters from around the country.
Typically, those who contact her want information on the effects of various
pollutants or statistics on the environment.
      About a decade ago, Ludwig says she logged about 2,700 guest visits
in a year, and scout troops accounted for about two-thirds of the total.
      Phone calls still come in droves, but the most interesting part of
Ludwig's many communications may be the letters that flood her mailbox.
And, it's not so much the quantity of letters. It is their addresses.
      You see, Ludwig's mail regularly comes to: "The Swamp Lady, Ches
Haven on the Sassafras, Earleville, Md."
      That's right, The Swamp Lady.
      Ludwig, who is 70, picked up the nickname about 30 years ago, when
she was collecting samples of swamp life near her home. A Girl Scout from a
nearby camp spotted her and said, "You must be a swamp lady." To this day,
Ludwig carries the title with pride.
      "The wetlands are the most valuable land we have," she says. "If my
name somehow heightens awareness of that fact, then it's fine."
      A member of a multitude of local, regional and national groups,
including the Sassafras River Community Council, Delmarva Environmental
Education Network and the Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes,
Ludwig has been recognized by many organizations as a key player in
environmental protection.
      In 1984, for instance, Ludwig and two friends joined forces,
organizing a grassroots community group known as the Friends of Five
Rivers, and they successfully fought proposed sludge dumping on the banks
of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
      For their efforts, Ludwig and her friends received a citation from
the Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes. Four years later, Ludwig
received a note from then President Ronald Reagan, thanking her for her
volunteer efforts. Just last year, the group was recognized again, this
time at a meeting of the International Global Assembly, "Women and the
Environment, Partners in Life." Recently, the women's "sludge-busting"
story was highlighted in the 1992 Environmental Success Index by the
non-profit Renew America.
      As part of a periodic government survey, Ludwig also collects data on
local rivers for various agencies and the National Park Service for its
national registry. And she shares this information with individuals as
      For example, she gave material on the entire Chesapeake region-rivers
and all-to an Army major stationed in Germany who grew up on the bay and
wanted to share information with his young children.
      More recently, Ludwig has been active in tracking down environmental
literature and maps for local schools and libraries. Some of the same
groups she supplies with information, such as the National Park Service,
later return the favor by giving Ludwig materials she needs to fill a
      The Swamp Lady attributes much of her success to networking. "I know
a lot of people," she says, "and many of them are very willing to help me
get things done." She also relies heavily on knowledge she picked up during
her formal "working years."
      Ludwig's many professional jobs have included research chemist,
technical writer, full-time and substitute science teacher in elementary
and secondary schools, social worker and freelance newspaper reporter. She
also worked for the Biochemical Research Foundation, a division of the
Franklin Institute, as well as for W.L. Gore & Associates.
      Currently, she spends two to three hours each day responding to mail,
talking with information-seekers on the telephone and rooting through her
files of environmental information.
      "Basically," Ludwig explains, "I'm a snoop and an archivist. My
greatest pleasure is to work on my files."
      A Massachusetts native whose family moved to Delaware when she was 6
years old, Ludwig is a popular speaker at elementary and secondary schools
in Maryland. The Swamp Lady also takes youngsters, including Girl Scouts
from the camp next door, on nature walks, pointing out trouble spots in the
local environment and telling the young people what they can do to protect
Mother Nature.
                                   -Stephen M. Steenkamer, Delaware '92