Women firsts: The first woman fire lookout

Lookout tower in construction by Volney Douglas on Mt. Wrightson 1929
Since the late 1800s, the Forest Service was strictly a man’s world. Women were not even working in offices until men decided they disliked paperwork. No big surprise there!
Hallie M. Daggett was no stranger to National Forests and wilderness experiences. She learned to hunt, fish and trap, which was quite an accomplishment for a refined and educated lady in those days. She also had a profound hatred of forest fire destruction, and wanted to be a part of the Forest Service’s goal to fight them. Hired at the Gulch Lookout Station in the Klamath National Forest on June 21st, 1913, she was documented as saying: “Then, thanks to the liberal-mindedness and courtesy of the officials in charge of our district, I was given the position of lookout…with a firm determination to make good, for I knew that the appointment of a woman was rather in the nature of an experiment, and naturally felt that there was a great deal due the men who had been willing to give me the chance.” American Forestry 1914
Despite this support, she was met with opposition from other men, who insisted that women could not handle being alone in lookout towers, as no doubt they would be afraid of the isolation and many dangers. “She’ll be on the radio the first night, pleading to go home,” a ranger is quoted to have said. I’ll bet Hallie laughed herself silly over that one.
Of course she proved them wrong, and this spirited woman showed the same skill and aptitude of any man, and continued working as a lookout for 14 more years.

Thanks to Joanne Burch for providing the photo of her uncle building a fire lookout in Southern Arizona.

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