(COLORADO) — For International Mountain Day on Sunday, Dec. 11, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is highlighting women who moved mountains throughout history.
The Rocky Mountains have notable women woven throughout the history of the park and surrounding communities. Frontier women worked hard to establish their own property rights over homesteads and became successful inn owners, says RMNP. In the 1920s and 1930s, women came on the scene as park staff, leading visitors to the heights of the Rocky Mountains.
“Women play a key role in environmental protection and social and economic development in mountain areas,” states RMNP. “They are often the primary managers of mountain resources and guardians of biodiversity.”
According to RMNP, Bird was “an Englishwoman of astounding accomplishment.” She became the first woman to be accepted into the Royal Geographic Society in Great Britain. Bird traveled through North America, Asia, Europe and Australia supporting herself by writing about her adventures.
Bird set out for Colorado, heading to the mountain town of Estes Park where she resided at Griff Evans’ Cottage Camp on Fish Creek, says RMNP. She explored the Estes Park valley and the heights of Longs Peak becoming the second woman known to climb it. RMNP says, Anna E. Dickinson, a guest of Professor Hayden of the Hayden expedition, had been there only a month before.
Jim Nugent – more famously known as “Rocky Mountain Jim” – often accompanied Bird on her daily travels. The friendship between a genteel Englishwoman and an outlawed American mountain man became a legend in the Estes Park area, states RMNP.
In 1879, Bird’s travels were chronicled and published in A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, a book made from a collection of letters Bird had written to her sister. Her writings created an interest in Estes Park and were integral in the establishment of the park, which was growing as a tourist destination.
I have dropped into the very place I have been seeking, but in everything it exceeds all my dreams… The scenery is the most glorious I have ever seen, and is above us, around us, at every door.”Isabella Bird, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains
Mary Belle King Sherman
Sherman worked to lobby, promote and gather public support for Congress to pass legislation that would establish the park, per RMNP. She was a parliamentary law instructor at the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago and a philanthropist. In 1909, she and her husband John Dickenson Sherman moved to Estes Park, Colorado.
In the early 1900s, Sherman was one of the first advocates for the idea that children gain health benefits from spending time outdoors. She used her influence with the Federated Women’s Club from traveling and lecturing across Colorado and other states to gain public support to establish the national park.
Sherman became known as the “National Park Lady.” She served as Chairperson for the Conservation Department of the Federated Women’s Clubs and worked to build public support for the creation of the Grand Canyon along with five other national parks, according to RMNP.
Every community should have a place in which the people may spend their leisure time, where they will be brought in direct contact with things of beauty and interest in the outdoor world.Mary Belle King Sherman at the National Park Conference held in Berkeley, California, on March 13,1915.
Women continue to advance the conservation of Rocky Mountain National Park at all levels from park rangers, field supervisors to park managers. To read more about notable women throughout the history of the Rocky Mountains, go to the National Park Service website.