Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Women who made history in Yosemite National Park

Lucy Telles, also known as Pa-ma-has (1940s). Source:  San Joaquin Valley Library System

Lucy Telles, also known as Pa-ma-has (1940s). Her innovations in Native American basket weaving had a lasting influence on Yosemite’s weavers. Source: San Joaquin Valley Library System

Today is International Women’s Day. March is Women’s History Month. And the year 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National Park and the California State Park system. Yosemite was first protected as a state park — the first state park in the world — when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864.

Considering that Yosemite is one of my favorite places in the world, I am honoring these events by highlighting the achievements of women who have made an impact on this iconic park. We oftentimes read about the famous men in the history of Yosemite and the National Park System, but we rarely hear about the women who have made history.

Native American legacy

  • Ta-bu-ce, known as Maggie Howard (1870-1947)Paiute basket maker and teacher who spent much of her life in Yosemite Valley. She worked at the Yosemite Museum from 1929-1942 demonstrating acorn preparation and basket weaving, a tradition that continued with succeeding cultural demonstrators, Lucy Telles and Julia Parker.
  • Pa-ma-has, known as Lucy Telles (1885- 1955)Northern Paiute and Yosemite Miwok basket weaver.  Her innovations in basket weaving had a lasting influence on Yosemite’s weavers.
  • Julia Parker (born 1928, age 86) — A cultural specialist at the Yosemite Museum and is the park’s longest serving current employee.

Public service, activism and conservation

Climbing achievements

  • Sally DutcherFirst woman to climb Half Dome in October 1875 with George Anderson and Galen Clark.
  • Florence Hutchings (1864 – 1881) – At the age of 13 in 1876, “Flo” was one of the first females to ascend Half Dome and was likely the youngest girl to first climb several of Yosemite’s high peaks in her short life. Mt. Florence is named for her.
  • Beverly Johnson (1947-1994) and Sibylle Hechtel – In 1973, Bev Johnson and Sibylle Hechtel completed the first all female ascent of El Capitan.
  • Lynn Hill (born 1961) – Known as one of the best female climbers in the world and famous for making the first  “free” ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in 1993.

Who is making history today?

Whose achievements should we celebrate  and recognize? Are there female lawmakers, activists, scientists, educators, volunteer-organizers, artists and cultural interpreters who are making history in Yosemite today?

El Capitan and the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Christine Sculati

El Capitan and the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo: Christine Sculati