Women in the Forest Service - Gerald W. Williams, Ph.D.

The first half of the 20th century, women were expected to conform to the roles and rules set at the end of the late 19th century, the so called Victorian era. Men were believed to be the physically strong, mentally capable, prone to action, outdoor oriented, and leaders of society. Women were thought to be the weak, passive, supporters, homemakers, submissive, and followers of strong leaders (men). Thus, after the Forest Service was established in the summer of 1905, it is not surprising that men were the only employees doing field work and office work.

The Forest Service, as well as most other employers in the era, began slowly to realize that being a woman was no barrier to any job. This was the era of male bank tellers and male clerks in practically every office and business setting.

The struggle for women to get full recognition for their abilities has taken almost a hundred years to come to fruition. When the regional offices were established in November and December of 1908, employees in the Washington office were offered employment in the more "remote" locations around the U.S., including Missoula, Denver, Albuquerque, Ogden, San Francisco, and Portland. Albert Cousins wrote about women in the early regional offices: "the employment of women clerks in the Supervisor's office was not looked upon with favor and the policy was established to employ men only the idea being that a woman clerk could not handle the "rough" work required in the administration of a forest, such as assembling and shipping fire tools, rustling fire fighters, etc. Such work properly was for a "two fisted" ranger or forest officer. However, it was not long before it became apparent that there was another element in forest officers' work which had not been taken into consideration. That was PAPER WORK: reports, letters to forest users, etc. Such work proved to be too much for the "two fisted" rangers and supervisors."

Basically, there were no women hired by the Forest Service to do field work for many decades.

There is one account of a woman employed during the First World War as a "patrolwoman" on the Willamette National Forest: "Miss Helen McCormick, of Eugene, has been employed to patrol in the Upper McKenzie River country...."Her district will embrace the territory between Blue River village and the Blue River mines [about 10 miles]. She will cover this district on horseback; carrying an emergence camping outfit, to be prepared for the nights which must necessarily be spent along the trail."

Portrait of Miss Hallie M. Daggett, first woman Forest Service lookout.These are the only accounts found, thus far, of women employed in field going positions on the national forests in other than a Hallie M. Daggett and her pack horse ready to leave the Eddy Gulch Station in the fall.lookout position in these early years.The first woman employed by the Forest Service as a lookout was Hallie M. Daggett (above), who started work at Eddy's Gulch Lookout Station atop Klamath Peak (Klamath National Forest) in the summer of 1913 (she worked as lookout for 14 years).

"Some of the Service men predicted that after a few days of life on the peak she would telephone that she was frightened by the loneliness and the danger, but she was full of pluck and high spirit...[and] she grew more and more in love with the work. Even when the telephone wires were broken and when for a long time she was cut off from communication with the world below she did not lose heart. She not only filled the place with all the skill which a trained man could have shown but she desires to be reappointed when the fire season opens this year" [1914] (American Forestry 1914: 174, 176).

During World War II and more firsts for women in the Forest Service