Roundup: March 8 2023




Roundup Synopsis

March saw the Corral greeted by Ed Anderson and his presentation, Pioneers in Petticoats: Women’s Influence in the Founding of the National Parks; a Tribute to Shirley Sargent, “Yosemite Tomboy.” Those who frequent our Roundups are likely familiar with the “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir. But as the old saying goes: “Behind every great man is a great woman,” or in this case, dozens of them. As Mr. Anderson expounded, men like Muir may have been the face of the early con­servationist movement, but the founding of Yosemite and of our other treasured National Parks would not have been possible, nor nearly as comfortable, without the seldom-lauded efforts of the many women active within the West’s rugged hinterland.
First on the list of wonder women was Jeanne Carr, the “Spiritual Mother” of John Muir. Muir met Carr at the Wisconsin State Fair, and soon became a friend to her and her husband, Ezra, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. As Ed tells it, it was Jeanne who advised Muir throughout his adult life, introducing him not only to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but also to his future wife. Though she only visited Yosemite once, in 1870, her impact on it as a National Park is difficult to overstate.
Of the women who resided in Yosemite, two to highlight were innkeepers Isabella Leidig and Mary Peregoy. Ms. Leidig was the proprietor of Leidig’s Hotel, and Ms. Peregoy ran the Mountain View House, an inn that became legendary among the so­cialites who vacationed there. It’s not hard to imagine what these establishments meant to early Yosemite adventurers. These little oases of homey goodness nestled within the spectacular wilds would have been quite a relief from the rigors of the dusty track from Clarke, the last stop on the railroad outside of Yosemite.
While Leidig and Pergoy were caring for the boys, other gals like Sarah “Sallie” Dutcher and the Sweet Sisters were out in the park playing with the boys. Mr. Anderson’s research suggests that Dutcher was the first woman to climb the back side of Half Dome, in December 1875, with George Anderson, who was the first (documented) to ever climb it earlier that year in October. The evidence for Ms. Dutcher’s accomplishment was an earring of hers, found a few years later by another group of climbers. The Sweet Sisters were the first women to climb Mt. Lyell, and the first to descend into the Tuolumne Canyon. They also set a fashion trend wear­ing billowy gaucho-styled trousers. Cinched below the knee with gaiters, these pants were more practical than the petticoats epony­mous to Ed’s presentation.
Whether they were directive, doting, or daring, the women profiled by Mr. Anderson in Pioneers in Petticoats, and countless others across the U.S., were instrumental in the pop­ularization of Yosemite, in particular, and our other National Parks, in general. Perhaps in the future, the quote will read: “Behind every great man are dozens of appropriately dressed women.” Better yet, in the future, perhaps such distinctions of gender will be unnecessary when discussing the greatness of such intrepid people among us.
— Alan Griffin


Photos from the Roundup