Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

11 Amazing Women Who Made Wilderness Conservation History

Often working in the shadows of better-known male conservationists, female conservation leaders helped drive the twentieth century conservation movement. 

In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are 11 of those women who have made a difference to America’s wild lands:

1. Margaret “Mardy” Murie (1902—2003)

Mardy Murie worked hand-in-hand with her husband Olaus Murie to accomplish important wilderness victories like the establishment and expansion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Mardy Murie witnessed first-hand the signing of the Wilderness Act fifty years ago. She continued to fight for wilderness until her death at age 101 in 2003.

Mardy and Olaus Murie at their home, Grand Tetons, 1953. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

“I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them,” Murie once said.

2. Celia Hunter (1910—2001)

Celia Hunter fought alongside Mardy and Olaus Murie to safeguard the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and became the first female president of a national conservation organization—The Wilderness Society. She played a major role in the passage of legislation that protected over 100 million acres in Alaska. On her dying day she wrote a letter to Congress urging the protection of the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. 

3. Rachel Carson (1907—1964)

Rachel Carson was employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1943, and resigned to continue her writing career in 1952. Her bestselling book Silent Spring remains a environmental classic for it raised public health concerns and highlighted the need for regulation, inspiring grassroots movements that led to the development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is a wildlife refuge named for her in Maine.

Rachel Carson and Bob Hines conducting research, Atlantic coast, 1952. Photo credit: USFWS

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

4. Terry Tempest Williams (1955— )

Terry Tempest Williams is a contemporary author who writes about wilderness. She received The Wilderness Society’s Robert Marshall Award in 2006, our highest honor given to citizens. When President Clinton dedicated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah in 1996, he held up a book she’d edited—Testimony: Writers Speak On Behalf of Utah Wilderness—and said, "This made a difference." 

5. Hallie M. Daggett

Hallie Daggett learned how to hunt, fish, ride, trap and shoot early in life, skills which served her well as the first woman employed by the Forest Service. She worked as a lookout for 15 years beginning in 1913 at Eddy's Gulch Lookout Station atop Klamath Peak in California’s Klamath National Forest. It was almost a hundred years later before the Forest Service appointed their first female chief Abigail R. Kimbell in 2007.

Hallie M. Daggett. Photo credit: USFS

6. Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890—1998)

Marjory Douglas worked to protect the Everglades and wrote the iconic book The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947—the year Everglades National Park was established. The park contains a wilderness areas named for her legacy.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida, 1985. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

"It is a woman's business to be interested in the environment," said Douglas. “It's an extended form of housekeeping." 

7. Herma Albertson Baggley (1896—1981)

Herma Baggley was the first female naturalist who worked for the National Park Service. She was a pioneer in botany and natural education at Yellowstone National Park starting in 1929. She paved the way for Fran P. Mainella, who became the first woman director of the National Park Service in 2001. 

8. Bethine Church (1923—2013)

Bethine Church was as politically active as her husband U.S. Senator Frank Church—no small feat. Her husband sponsored the passage of the Wilderness Act 50 years ago, and she also supported the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act four years later. In their home state of Idaho, they worked for the protection of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Sawtooth Wilderness, and the now-named Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. 

9. Rosalie Barrow Edge (1877—1962)

Rosalie Edge was a suffragist and advocate for the preservation of birds. In 1934 she founded the first preserve for birds of prey at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the Appalachian Mountains and she led campaigns to protect Olympic and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Rosalie Barrow Edge. Photo credit: HawkMountain.org

“The time to protect a species is while it is still common.”

10. Anne LaBastille (1935—2011)

Anne LaBastille was an ecologist who authored scientific papers, popular articles and books like the Woodswoman series and Women of the Wilderness. She led backpacking and canoe trips in the Adirondacks as well as wilderness workshops and lectures. She also photographed the outdoors as part of the EPA’s Documerica project in the 1970s.

11. Mollie H. Beattie (1947—1996)

Mollie Beattie was the first female director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In her short term there from 1993 to 1996, she oversaw the reintroduction of the gray wolf into the northern Rocky Mountains and the addition of 15 national wildlife refuges. A wilderness area is named for her in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Mollie Beattie.  Photo credit: USFWS

“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it's unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.”

Also, several federal lands preserve the legacies of American women and their lasting contributions, such as: Adams National Historic Site, MA (Abigail Adams), Clara Barton National Historic Site, Washington, D.C., Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, NY, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, VA, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington, D.C., Sewall-Belmont House National Historic Site, Washington, D.C. (Alice Paul), Whitman Mission National Historic Site, WA (Narcissa Prentiss Whitman).

———

Related Content:

10 Wilderness Protection Bills Stalled by Congress

10 National Parks You've Never Heard Of

Wild Places Destroyed in the Name of Progresss

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less
About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. Mario Micklisch / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Charli Shield

When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.

Read More Show Less