Co-founder of Earth Day spent her early years in Toledo

Co-founder of Earth Day spent her early years in Toledo
Selma Newman in the 1933 Scott High School yearbook (Source:
Selma Newman in the 1933 Scott High School yearbook (Source:

(WTOL) - As the nation observes the 47th Earth Day celebration this year, most people in Northwest Ohio, probably don't realize that a key player in the creation of this perennial event was a woman who spent her childhood and early adult years in Toledo.

Her name was Selma Rubin; born in 1915 as Selma Newman, whose parents were Ukrainian refugees who had sought a new life in the midwest region of the U.S.

Selma Newman attended Scott High School in the 1930s and graduated from the University of Toledo.

In World War II, Selma volunteered for the Navy as a members of the WAVES, otherwise known as the United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve).

Following the war, she took up residence in southern California and eventually married William Rubin to spend her life in beautiful Santa Barbara.

In 1969 however, when an oil rig in the Santa Barbara Channel ruptured, sending a 100,thousand gallons of oil onto the white sandy beaches along the coast, killing fish and aquatic wildlife, Selma Rubin found her calling.

She immersed herself in the cause of clean-up and protection of the coastline and became an active environmentalist for the remaining decades of her life until her death at the age of 96, in 2012.

Rubin, along with another woman, led numerous petition drives to curtail development in fragile coastal environments and earned a reputation as a fierce fighter for environmental causes.

In 1977 and she co-founded the Environmental Defense Council and was also active in establishing many other groups around the nation that focused on the earth's protection.

When this passionate fighter for the planet, and Toledo native passed away, the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper quoted Congresswoman Lois Capps as saying, "Today, Santa Barbara lost one of its true heroes, and I have lost a dear friend and mentor. Selma was a shining example of a woman with the enthusiasm and passion to excel and the vision to turn her dreams into reality."

Selma Rubin. A Toledo girl turned hero. Lest we forget.

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