Women’s Herstory Month: 10 Outdoor Women Who Deserve More Credit
This March, we celebrated the 34th annual Women’s History Month, commemorating and encouraging the study and celebration of the vital and often understated role of women in history.
It’s no surprise that the outdoors has been and largely still is a male-dominated realm. Despite all the progress being made towards equality in the outdoors, women still face a lack of appropriate clothing, gear, and opportunities. We founded SheFly with the goal of making the outdoors just a ~wee-bit~ more accessible for people of all anatomies.
To conclude Women’s History Month, SheFly brings to you a list of women in outdoor history that deserve more credit! These badass women paved the way in mountaineering, sports, environmental justice, and more. We hope you take the time to reflect upon their herstories with us.
ANNE LABASTILLE - THE ADIRONDACK WOODSWOMAN (1935-2011)
Tiny but tenacious, fierce, fearless, and feminine, Anne Labastille was an influential Adirondack outdoor guide, environmental advocate, and writer. She redefined “feminine” roles of her time in so many ways. She was - as her book describes - a true Woodswoman, and a lone woodswoman at that. From her arch-environmentalist stances in environmental protection to her rugged wilderness adventures, she stood apart, comfortable in her solitude and independence. She built her own lakeside cabin in the Adirondack wilderness, taking pleasure in open space outdoors, holding onto self-sufficiency even through Alzeimers in her final years.
JUNKO TABEI - THE FIRST WOMAN TO SUMMIT EVEREST (1939-2016)
“I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest,” Junko Tabei, the first woman to have summited Mount Everest once said of the world’s highest peak. “It’s only a mountain.” We think this Japanese trailblazer’s quote speaks for itself.
BJöRG EINARSDOTTIR - THE IMPRESSIVE ICELANDIC FISHERWOMAN (1716-1789)
Poet and fisherwoman Björg Einarsdóttir was one of many female figures in Icelandic seafaring. She often caught more fish than other crew members and her abilities were thought to be supernatural (nope, that’s just how badass women are!). Her edge on the male crewmembers was clear, as she cleverly made note of in one of her poems:
“Do row better my dear man,
Fear not to hurt the ocean.
Set your shoulders if you can
Into harder motion”
If you’re curious about other influential Icelandic fisherwomen in herstory and some interesting research by Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Wilson, check out this article!
RELL SUNN- THE QUEEN OF HAWAIIAN SURFING (1950-1998)
Rell sunn started surfing as a toddler and eventually became a Hawaiian surfing legend - living up to her middle name, ‘Kapolioka’ehukai,’ which translates to “Heart of the Sea”. In addition to being a top-tier pro surfer, she was also an incredible spear fisher, diver, open ocean swimmer, and women’s rights advocate. She became the first woman lifeguard in Makaha in 1975 and she set up the Women's Professional Surfing Organization in 1979 to advocate for women’s participation and equity in the Surfing Industry.
CLARE MARIE HODGES – THE FIRST FEMALE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE RANGER (1890-1970)
Formerly a schoolteacher, Clare changed career paths at the end of WWI and became the first female National Park Service Ranger. She was known to be fearless and independent, seen riding horseback overnight from each end of the park to deliver gate receipts. She was the only female park ranger for the next 30 years.
EMMA ROWENA GATEWOOD - FIRST FEMALE TO SOLO HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL (1887-1973)
In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood, also well-known as "Grandma Gatewood," became the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail solo. Not only that, but she did it wearing Keds sneakers, carrying just twelve pounds of gear, and using only a plastic shower curtain for shelter.
Within a year, Emma became the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail twice. She completed the trail for a third time later in her life.
Margaret Thomas Murie - THE “GRANDMOTHER OF THE CONSERVATION MOVEMENT” (1902-2003)
Margaret Thomas Murie is hailed by many, including the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, as the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement.” The naturalist, author, and adventurer loved the outdoors and spent nearly 40 years studying wildlife with her husband, Olaus, on backcountry expeditions in Alaska and Wyoming. In 1956, she and her husband started a campaign to protect some of Alaska’s at risk natural territory. With the help of U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, they convinced President Dwight Eisenhower to set aside 8 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Three decades later, she worked on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which doubled the size of the refuge. In between, she was instrumental in passing the Wilderness Act, which officially defined wilderness areas and created the National Wilderness Preservation System, which today protects over 100 million acres. For her work, Murie was honored with the Audubon Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Reina Torres de Araúz - THE FIRST FEMALE LATIN AMERICAN GRANTEE OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (1932-1982)
Reina was the first female Latin American grantee of the National Geographic Society and a fierce defender of Panama’s history. Anthropologist, ethnographer, and professor, De Araúz was committed to preserving the culture and continuity of the indigenous peoples of Panama. She served as the director of the national museum of Panama, was elected UNESCO’s vice president of the World Heritage Committee, and she helped open six museums and an archaeology park.
Lozen, Chiricahua Apache - A GREAT INDIGENOUS TWO SPIRIT WARRIOR (1840-1899)
Lozen was a medicine woman, midwife, prophetess, and two-spirit warrior. An excellent rider and military strategist, she was known to be able to predict enemy movement including colonizers that began encroaching on Apache lands. She fought alongside her brother until death, who gave her the nicknames she is remembered by; “Warrior Woman” and “A Shield to Her People”.
Mary Seacole - THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN TO PUBLISH A TRAVEL MEMOIR (1805-1881)
Mary Seacole, aka Mother Seacole was a novelist and avid traveler in the late 1800s. Born in Jamaica, she took to travelling through the Bahamas, Haiti, England, and Cuba. She collected knowledge about local plants used for herbal medicines. She later wrote the book ‘Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands”, the first travel memoir ever published by a black woman.
During Women’s month it’s especially important to remember intersectional feminism is the way - which includes trans women! In addition to the last day of Women’s Month, March 31st is also Trans Visibility Day. As a company of cis women, we ackowledge our priveledge and duty in untying our own biases and patterns, stepping up to education, amplifying trans voices in the outdoors and beyond, standing in solidarity with trans folx, and constantly checking and improving ourselves as individuals and as a start-up. Throughout this blog research process, we found that there is some coverage on trans women athletes of history among other activists, and changemakers, but there aren’t nearly enough stories published about historical trans women in the outdoors.
However, we are excited to be in a unique moment in history where trans women are more empowered to come out, speak their truths, and take up space. Trans women are making herstory every day. It’s also crucial that we take note of the horrific hate crimes against trans women that take place and vile anti-trans legislation that has passed and continues to be pushed. We still have so far to go before trans women feel safe and welcomed in day to day life and in the outdoors.
We’d like to acknowledge that our name has made some folx feel uncomfortable, as it implies that our pants are only for those who use and identify with the “she” pronoun or associated anatomy. We completely hear these thoughts and are working to make our branding more inclusive of everyone who could benefit from our patented zipper design — which is all people who pee (& poop!).
We’d like to save an inspiring trans woman making herstory in the outdoor space for last. And her name is Erin Parisi (@erinsends7). A special thanks to Wyn of Pattie Gonia (@pattiegonia) for introducing us to this badass woman!) Erin is attempting to be the first trans person to summit Everest and she needs our help!
‘I’m aiming to be the first known trans person to climb the highest mountain tops on each continent, where I’ll scream to the world I won’t be ashamed or stigmatized any more. I’m done listening to the shadows, and I’m ready to climb above the hate.”