Women who made history in Yosemite National Park

 In Arts and Culture, Community, Environment
Lucy Telles, also known as Pa-ma-has (1940s). Source: San Joaquin Valley Library System

Lucy Telles, also known as Pa-ma-has (1940s). Her innovations in Native American basket weaving had a lasting influence on Yosemite’s weavers. Source: San Joaquin Valley Library System

Today is International Women’s Day. March is Women’s History Month. And the year 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National Park and the California State Park system. Yosemite was first protected as a state park — the first state park in the world — when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864.

Considering that Yosemite is one of my favorite places in the world, I am honoring these events by highlighting the achievements of women who have made an impact on this iconic park. We oftentimes read about the famous men in the history of Yosemite and the National Park System, but we rarely hear about the women who have made history.

Native American legacy

Ta-bu-ce, known as Maggie Howard (1870-1947)

Paiute basket maker and teacher who spent much of her life in Yosemite Valley. She worked at the Yosemite Museum from 1929-1942 demonstrating acorn preparation and basket weaving, a tradition that continued with succeeding cultural demonstrators, Lucy Telles and Julia Parker.

Pa-ma-has, known as Lucy Telles (1885- 1955)

Northern Paiute and Yosemite Miwok basket weaver.  Her innovations in basket weaving had a lasting influence on Yosemite’s weavers.

Julia Parker (born 1928)

A cultural specialist at the Yosemite Museum and is the park’s longest serving current employee.

Public service, activism and conservation

Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902)

Activist whose perseverance and vision contributed to the 1864 creation of the Yosemite Grant.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830 – 1855)

A poet and writer who campaigned for Native American rights.

Enid Michael (1883 – 1966)

Known as Yosemite’s first woman ranger naturalist and a prolific writer on Yosemite’s natural history.

Clare Marie Hodges (1890 – 1970)

In 1918 became the first woman park ranger in the nation in Yosemite.

Constance Gordon-Cumming (1893 – 1924)

Travel writer and landscape painter whose works formed the first art exhibition in Yosemite.

Marjory Bridge Farquhar (1903-1999)

Pioneering climber and conservationist who was active in the Sierra Club.

Virginia Best Adams (1904-2000)

Avid hiker who lived most of her life in Yosemite Valley, married photographer Ansel Adams in 1928, served on the Sierra Club board of directors from 1931 to 1933 and managed Best’s Studio (now the Ansel Adams Gallery).

Shirley Sargent (1927 -2004)

Yosemite historian and writer.

Climbing achievements

Sally Dutcher

First woman to climb Half Dome in October 1875 with George Anderson and Galen Clark.

Florence Hutchings (1864 – 1881)

At the age of 13 in 1876, “Flo” was one of the first females to ascend Half Dome and was likely the youngest girl to first climb several of Yosemite’s high peaks in her short life. Mt. Florence is named for her.

Beverly Johnson (1947-1994) and Sibylle Hechtel

In 1973, Bev Johnson and Sibylle Hechtel completed the first all female ascent of El Capitan.

Lynn Hill (born 1961)

Known as one of the best female climbers in the world and famous for making the first  “free” ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in 1993.

Who is making history today?

Whose achievements should we celebrate  and recognize? Are there female lawmakers, activists, scientists, educators, volunteer-organizers, artists and cultural interpreters who are making history in Yosemite today?

El Capitan and the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Christine Sculati

El Capitan and the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo: Christine Sculati

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