Chapter 1


--Before NPS

--The Park Service Assumes Responsibility

--Interpretation Institutionalized

Chapter 2

--Branching Into History

--The Importance of Historical Interpretation

--Inagurating the Program

--Historical Challenges

Chapter 3

--New Directions

--Audiovisual Innovations

--Museums, Visitor Centers, and the New Look

--Living History

--Environmental Interpretation

--Women in Interpretation

--Other Agendas

Chapter 4

--Interpreting Interpretation

Chapter 5

--Interpretation In Crisis






--Branching Into History

--New Directions

--Interpreting Interpretation

--Interpretation in Crisis



by Barry Mackintosh

Women in Interpretation

Interpretation has been a primary avenue for the employment and advancement of women professionals in the National Park Service, an organization traditionally personified by the masculine ranger.

Isabelle F. Story joined the Service at its inception in 1917 as an editorial assistant and soon assumed responsibility for information and public relations, functions closely related to interpretation. For many years before her retirement in 1956, she was the only female chief on the director's staff.

In the field, the Service licensed young women employed by local hotels to nature-guide in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1917. Three years later Yellowstone hired Isobel Bassett, trained in geology, as a seasonal ranger to help inaugurate the interpretive program there. She was succeeded in 1921 by Mary A. Rolfe, a teacher. Herma Albertson Baggley served as a seasonal ranger-naturalist in Yellowstone from 1928 to 1930 and joined the permanent staff in 1931, becoming the first permanent woman naturalist in the Service. At Yosemite, Enid Michael volunteered in the nature guide program in 1920 and served as a seasonal ranger-naturalist on the park staff from 1921 to 1943.[55]

Women were long prominent in historic preservation activity outside the Service, but the bureau did not become broadly receptive to female historical interpreters until the late 1950s. Even then they were something of a novelty. "Each year more consideration is given to the employment of women in certain types of interpretive programs, such as historic houses," Ronald Lee noted in a 1959 paper on "What's New In Interpretation."[56]

The next year Roy Appleman was impressed by a conversation with Maria Lombard, who organized and operated the guided tours at Rockefeller Center in New York City. She had originally used young men but found them too independent and hard to control. Young women (preferably ages 18-25) were far more satisfactory: they were natural hostesses, more outgoing, "much better at any task which is of a repetitive nature..., more susceptible to instruction, more obedient, and...less of a management problem. . ." Appleman agreed with her opinion of male guides: "My own experience of guided tours and similar work in the National Park Service is that men are not effective at it. In uniform, they stand around looking like guards, and they act like guards. They are not outgoing, and they do not initiate conversation. They lack warmth." He recommended that the Service discontinue hiring men for guide work and employ only women "whenever the conditions will warrant a woman holding the job."[57]

Appleman again championed female employment in drafting the Director's 1962 annual report:

There has been an increasing awareness on the part of many in the Service that women do certain public service and interpretive work better than men. They are better suited psychologically, studies in industry have proven, to perform duties of a repetitive and routine nature. The most extensive experiment in the use of women thus far in this type of work has been at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where it seems to be working well.... On the basis of present experiments and studies, it would appear that the Service will make an increased and expanding use of women in its interpretive work. [58]

The women at Independence were park guides, a sub-professional job classification not requiring the college background necessary for park naturalists and historians. In the mid-1960s women began to be hired and trained for the latter jobs on a servicewide basis. By the 1980s they equaled or exceeded men in interpretive positions--and not just those of a repetitive and routine nature.

As women have made their mark in interpretation, they have broadened what is interpreted. Female interpreters at Morristown National Historical Park have lately conducted special programs on women in the Revolution, illustrated there by both camp followers and those left to manage family farms while the men were fighting. At Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg and Pea Ridge national military parks they have focused less on battle tactics and more on the battles' effects on homes and communities. At Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park they have included the of women in the Alaska gold rush. [59] Care must be taken that undue is not given tangential female roles at the expense of primary park themes. With this caution observed, the presence of women has desirably expanded and enriched interpretive content.



Last Modified: July 9, 2000 09:35:00 pm PST

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