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To understand the kind of environmental trendsetter Marguerite Lindsley was, you have to first know an important fact about the National Park Service. Although women have worked in national parks since the early twentieth century, they were not allowed to wear the official park ranger uniform until 1978. In fact, in the 60’s, they wore clothing that made them look more like a stewardess on an airplane than a steward of the environment, and they were not allowed to be park rangers because they were not allowed to fight fires or participate in rescue operations (presumably because they weren’t physically strong enough to do so).
Despite these obstacles, women encouraged by Horace Albright (the superintendent of Yellowstone Park) joined the park service, and his most notable employee was Marguerite Lindsley. Her father directed the transition of Yellowstone from a military installation to a national park, and Marguerite grew up there. She left home to study at University of Pennsylvania, but despite having a successful career as a lab assistant, she felt called to return to the land of her childhood. In 1925, she became a full-time park employee and created her own uniform, as she found the clothing, she was required to wear too restrictive when leading hikes and riding tours of the park. In one remarkable story, she was leading a tour on horseback when she fell and was scaled by a hot spring. With third degree burns covering her entire leg, she climbed back up on her horse and used her injury as a way to educate the tourists on how to safely navigate the park. In 1926, Sunset Magazine interviewed her and the glowing article they wrote about her encouraged many women to seek employment at Yellowstone; sadly, when Albright retired in 1933, women were no longer actively recruited but Marguerite stayed on, leading tours and teaching visitors about the importance of protecting our natural resources. She married a fellow employee and as was the custom for women back then, she was not allowed to continue working full time; instead, she worked as a seasonal employee until her death in 1952.
While it’s sad that her accomplishments were diminished by her marital status, and even sadder that Horace Albright was the only man at the time who saw that the great outdoors have no glass ceilings, women like Marguerite Lindsley deserve to be remembered for paving the way for the women who work in our national, state and regional parks today.