This Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate a few pioneers that have paved the way through their innovation, confidence, leadership, and their time spent in Estes Park. Today, we champion some badass ladies including Isabella Bird, Elizabeth and Esther Burnell, Mary Belle King Sherman, Imogene Green MacPhearson and Margaret Fuller Boos, who have not only made strides on the trails, but also in the local and national communities.
Isabella Bird was one of the first women to make traveling her job. If she were around today, she'd be Insta-famous--definitely someone you’d follow on social media. As a child, Bird suffered from insomnia, headaches and spinal pain, and her doctor prescribed her with time outdoors. She filled her prescription by exploring the world, becoming a travel writer and photographer. She pent a season in 1873 here in Estes Park, where she became the second woman to summit Colorado’s famed 14er, Longs Peak (the first being Anna E. Dickson). Not only did she summit Longs Peak, but she also did it in the fall, in rubber boots and in a flowing, silk Hawaiian dress. Talk about hiking in style! Her adventures were published in her book A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains in 1879, in which she champions the mountains for their healing powers. Read more about Isabella Bird with 7 reasons she should be your role model, and 4 RMNP hikes she would have loved.
Elizabeth and Esther Burnell
These glass-ceiling breaking sisters came to Estes Park in 1916 for a vacation and Esther ended up sticking around. Esther became famous for her 30-mile moonlit snowshoe across the Continental Divide to visit some friends. When Elizabeth visited in the summer of 1917, they became licensed by Rocky Mountain National Park as the first-ever female nature guides! As much as they were told to stick to one-day, below treeline hikes by their officials, the sisters decided that that rule just wasn’t going to work for them. Elizabeth repeatedly took groups to the summit of Longs Peak, and in turn, became the first female guide on Longs Peak.
Mary Belle King Sherman
Mary Belle King Sherman was a leading member of the National Federation of Women’s Club in 1912 and focused on building mountain trails around Estes Park to make scenic areas accessible to hikers and horseback riders. She was a strong advocate for bringing the national parks to Colorado and believed they would be a crucial developmental tool for America’s youth. Sherman was a huge player in helping national parks and education go hand in hand and shaping the next generation of environmental pioneers.
Imogene Green MacPhearson
Imogene always lived an entrepreneurial life and she carried that spirit with her when she set out west to the Rocky Mountains. She fell in love with the area, as we all do, and bought property in Moraine Park. This area was the center of resorts in the National Park area before and after its creation. Imogene decided to turn her land into the “Moraine Park Lodge” to introduce guests to the beautiful experiences the mountains offered. She welcomed her first guests in 1910 with cabins, a stable, a main lodge and a dining room. She ran the lodge herself, only allowing her husband to clerk the front desk. To this day, one of her structures is the last building remaining that was associated with these resorts in Moraine Park. And guess what? It’s what we know today as the Moraine Park Discovery Center.
Margaret Fuller Boos
In 1928, Margaret became RMNP’s first female ranger-naturalist. Women would not be allowed the title of Park Ranger until several decades later but she wore the same uniform as her male coworkers. She led countless hikes and taught evening programs for the park. In addition, she also created a geology guide for the park that is still used today and wrote a multitude of articles for the Park’s publication, Nature Notes.
Estes Park would not be the same place it is today without these wonderful women and their passion for the outdoors. In fact, Rocky Mountain National Park’s current superintendent, Darla Sidles, is the first female park superintendent since 1915! That’s pretty cool. As we celebrate and educate ourselves on the accomplishments of women this month, it is equally important to recognize there is still a lot of work to be done. All of these dynamic ladies created compelling and energizing waves and remain transformative figures today. Which contemporary badass women would you add to this list?