A Wildflower in Yellowstone: Herma Albertson Baggley

May 18, 2013 Posted by: Derek Mosley, 2010 Intern, and Anne Foster, Archivist
Herma Geneva Albertson was born on October 11, 1896, in Inwood, Iowa.In the fall of 1921, Herma enrolled in the University of Idaho, majoring in botany with a minor in philosophy.With a love of the outdoors, she took as many science courses as her schedule would permit. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Herma went to work at Yellowstone National Park for the summer as a naturalist.To earn her room and board, she also worked as a "pillow puncher" at the Old Faithful Lodge for the Yellowstone Park Company.She helped lay out the first nature trail at Old Faithful and was the only guide on the trail for three years.She grew the crowd of hikers, from three to three hundred. Also during this period, she served as a relief lecturer and lectured in the open air amphitheater on the banks of the Firehole River and in the Old Faithful Lodge.She kept a display of wild flowers in both the Lodge and Old Faithful Inn lobbies and supervised the gathering of wild flowers for table decorations.After the summer season was over, Albertson was offered a permanent position with the NPS and accepted.
Herma Alberton Baggley with megaphone used to deliver interpretive walks, circa 1929.

Herma Albertson Baggley with megaphone used to deliver interpretive walks, circa 1929. Herma Albertson Baggley Papers, Yellowstone National Park Archives.

For three years Herma lectured and guided at Old Faithful Geyser and then was transferred to Mammoth Hot Springs.Following an injury, she was assigned to work in the Mammoth Museum and Information Office.Since the Park was only open in the summer, Herma taught high school science and was offered a graduate fellowship in the botany department at the University of Idaho. Herma received her master's degree in the spring of 1929 and that fall began teaching as a full-time instructor in the botany department at the University of Idaho.After one year, Herma resigned from the university and applied to be an Assistant Park Naturalist with the National Park Service. Herma G. Albertson became the first woman to be appointed Junior Park Naturalist in May of 1931.During her seven years as a park naturalist, Herma authored and illustrated more than twenty-two articles for NPS publications, including Yellowstone Nature Notes.

Because of her work in the Park, Baggley felt a growing need for a book on the wild flowers of the park.Experienced in writing manuals during her master's program at the University of Idaho, she felt that she could produce a useful aid for the enjoyment of researchers and visitors to the park.Dr. W. B. McDougall, a leading plant ecologist and a temporary ranger naturalist in the park began discussing the possibilities of writing a manual with her.With the encouragement of Dr. Harold C. Bryant, the assistant Director of the National Park Service, they set out to publish The Flowers of Yellowstone National Park which has been edited and revised many times since its first publication.It is still a guide to the flowers within the Park.

The Herma Albertson Baggley Papers are held by the Yellowstone Park Archives and consist of botanical drawings, correspondence, diaries, photographs, publications, research and field notes, subject files, and writings.The diaries and photographs document Baggley's (then Albertson's) time as a "pillow puncher" or concession employee in Yellowstone National Park during the late 1920s.There is also correspondence concerning her hiring as the Park's first female junior ranger naturalist.There is a considerable amount of material, including correspondence, drafts, annotated publications, research notes, subject files, and other writings concerning the publication of the book, Plants of Yellowstone National Park.Additional research notes, botanical drawings, subject files, and writings study other aspects of Yellowstone's vegetation.


Sources: Herma Albertson Baggley Papers, Yellowstone National Park Archives.

Last updated: November 30, 2015

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