The United States is home to 423 national parks, monuments, and nationally protected lands. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns calls them “America’s best idea.” Collectively, they create a mosaic of many colors that reflect the diversity of our land.
“Our national parks have given shape to our multi-faceted and multicultural story,” the National Park Service says. “[They] honor our differences and remind us of everything that we have in common. Parks tell the ever-evolving story of who we are — our heritage and our history, in its struggles and triumphs. National parks are places that belong to us all, and we all have a place in them.”
Honoring women’s contributions
Many attribute national parks to Theodore Roosevelt — as well they should, since “the conservation president” doubled the number of sites within the National Park system and protected them through the Antiquities Act. Women’s History Month reminds us, though, that many of our park gems originated or flourished from female-led efforts.
Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, for example, came to be through the persistence of two women, Virginia McClurg and Lucy Peabody. They successfully campaigned to protect the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who made the area their home for over 700 years. Roosevelt signed the law creating the park in 1906, and today — with more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings — the park is the largest archeological preserve in the U.S.
Other women are honored by parks that bear their name or were influenced by their work.
And now, with the Senate confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service a woman is in charge of its activities. She is the first Native American person in U.S. history to hold a Cabinet post. Who could have dreamed that a little more than a hundred years from the founding of Mesa Verde, a Laguna Pueblo woman would be overseeing tribal lands and cultural assets nationwide and the National Park Service itself?
Inspiring where we go next
To support National Women’s History month, the National Park Foundation is highlighting 10 parks that celebrate women’s history while emphasizing that every park has a connection to women. “National parks across the country share stories of visionary women, trailblazers who dared to imagine a different future…contributing to our collective history,” the foundation says.
As we move toward the goal of 5050X2028 — roughly half women and half men in elected offices nationwide by 2028 — the story of our national parks and the many women who have helped to shape them sends the message home: when we use 100% of America’s talent, wisdom, and skill, the sky’s the limit on what we can achieve together.
Almost 150 years ago our first national park, Yellowstone was created . Today, our national parks stand not only for where America has been but also inspire where we’re going next: to a place that welcomes all of us. Shared treasures, a gift to all. No distinctions as to who can enter, who can enjoy, who can endeavor to build and preserve them.
©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund