Happy International Women’s Day (IWD)! Today is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This day also calls for action for advancing gender parity. IWD has been around for more than 100 years after first gathering in 1911.
To celebrate this day, I wanted highlight a couple women who have impacted our National Parks Service. It would take too long to highlight all women, so here is a bit about two.
Clare Marie Hodges served as the first female park ranger in the national park service. She worked as a teacher at the Yosemite Valley School and grew up visiting Yosemite. As World War I began, men were sent to serve and Yosemite National Park needed park rangers. Clare reached out and applied to become a ranger in 1918. She wrote, “Probably, you’ll laugh at me. But, I want to be a ranger.” Park Superintendent Washington B. Lewis wrote back, “I beat you to it, young lady. It’s been on my mind for some time to put a woman on one of these patrols.”
Fran Mainella served as the first female director of the national park service. President George W. Bush nominated her to this role in 2001 and the Senate confirmed. She worked in this job until 2006. Her first job in parks and recreation was as a playground counselor in Connecticut back in 1965. She built her career around the parks and led the Florida State Parks before becoming the director of the national park service. From the start of her directorship, she stated “Our nation’s parks tell the story of America and the history of this country. National parks represent the soul of America and a gift to the world. They are places of great history, beautiful landscapes, protected ecosystems and endangered species.”
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I honor all the women who have played a role in our national park system, continue to do so today, and those coming in the future. These lands exist for everyone and need us all.
“There is a love of wild nature in everybody.” ~ John Muir