Quantcast

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

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less