Women in the Parks

Patty Reed

This August 18th is the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment. The 19th Amendment prohibited denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex, in other words, it gave women the right to vote.

Florence Hellman Ehrman

In 1903, Isiah Wolf Hellman completed his summer home, Pine Lodge (now the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park). Though it was his project, the true Matriarch of Pine Lodge was his daughter, Florence Hellman-Ehrman. Florence and her husband Stanley spent their summers at Pine Lodge: entertaining guests, swimming in the Lake, competing in regattas with their two wooden boats, Comet and Cherokee, and exploring the surrounding forests of pine, fire, aspen, and juniper trees! Florence was a dedicated hostess and scheduled hikes, swimming, riding, fishing, boating, tennis, picnics, croquet and other games for her guests. 

In 1965, Florence gifted the house and 1,975 acres of land to the California State Park System. By doing this, Florence not only preserved her family’s legacy, she ensured that the beautiful setting of her house and surrounding nature would be protected for future generations to enjoy and learn from. We are so thankful for Florence’s love of the land and appreciation for preservation. 

Patty Reed

The creation of the Oregon Trail was one of the most influential times in American history and spawned countless hardships for the thousands of people who traveled it, but none more tragic than the story of the Donner Party. One of the greatest tragedies in our history, the Donner Party is the story of utter desperation and perseverance. Patty Reed was 8-year-old when her family picked up from their home in Missouri and began the journey to California on the Oregon Trail. Patty was one of the 49 survivors in the Donner Party. We know much of the Donner Party’s story thanks to a journal she kept.

SUSAN THEW

Not many people have heard of Susan Thew, but it was because of her dedication and drive that the Southern Sierra has been protected and Sequoia & Kings National Park grown to what they are today. Born in Ohio, Susan made the trip out to California in 1918 in search of warmer weather and fell in love with the giant sequoia trees. For the next few years, she made it her mission to preserve the Southern Sierra. She traveled hundreds of miles over the rugged terrain taking photographs of the landscape so she could share with the world its intense beauty that was worth saving. In 1926, Susan succeeded and her enlargement bill passed. In 1940, her tactic of using photography to capture the beauty of lands worth saving, was used by Ansel Adams. His photos of the South Sierra were crucial in the creation of Kings Canyon National Park. Thanks to Susan’s enthusiasm and passion for photography and California’s landscapes, there are 865,000+ acres of preserved nature in these two National Parks! 

Mabel Rosalie Barrow Edge

In summer of 1920, socialite and suffragette Mabel Rosalie Barrow Edge became fascinated by the birds around her home in New York. She joined many other bird watchers over the rest of 1920 and eventually logged over 800 species of birds! When she learned about the bounty killing of Bald Eagles in Alaska, she was horrified and used her connections and wealth to learn everything she could about “preserving birds of prey and species diversity, to the dangers of toxins and pesticides, including DDT, and the importance of protecting virgin forests.” She used this knowledge to demand and create reforms within the wildlife sanctuary communities that were responsible for the trapping and deaths of thousands of wild birds and other animals. Mabel created the Emergency Conservation Committee (ECC) to expose the truth about these wildlife sanctuaries. Believe it or not, Mabel started successful national campaigns leading to the creation of Olympic National Park in 1938 and Kings Canyon National Park in 1940 with Ansel Adams! Mabel also founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and it is the world’s oldest sanctuary for birds of prey. It became a National Natural Landmark in 1965! 

Clare Marie Hodges

Clare Marie Hodges was the first female National Park Ranger! As a child, Clare visited Yosemite and fell in love with the park’s majestic beauty. As a young adult in 1916, she moved there and worked as a teacher at the Yosemite Valley School Common for communities thrust into war, World War I was a turning point for Clare and women throughout the country. As World War I drafted American men, more and more positions became available for women since the men would no longer be around to do the work. This was the case for Clare, who learned that Yosemite was short on Park Rangers and promptly applied for a position. She stayed as part of the mounted patrol through the summer and in doing so, paved the way for female rangers to this day!