Author: Lauren Turner with a Foreword by Abigail Kimbell
The US Forest Service was established in 1905 and for the following 60–70 years was staffed primarily by men engaged in the production and harvest of timber. Social and economic changes that emerged from the civil rights and environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s, however, changed the scope and priorities of the service and created opportunities for women to find employment within the agency.
Here, career Forest Service employee Lauren Turner offers a brief history of the agency and then profiles the careers of 42 women who have spent most or all of their working lives in that agency. A final chapter provides a frank review of the collective challenges, rewards, and accomplishments of women who have been employed by the Forest Service since the early 1970s.
This review is the first of its kind involving women in the Forest Service and, as such, it adds a rich layer to the history of both the agency and that of modern women. In addition, it serves as a beacon to attract and inform young women of today who might themselves be interested in the outdoor, environmentally important work that is undertaken by the Forest Service.
Release date 18 November 2018; 6” wide x 9” high, softcover, perfect bound, xiv+452 pages, 176 b/w figures; 978-1-939923-45-5, list price $29.95.
Review by James Lewis, historian. Author of The Forest Service and the Greatest Good: A Centennial History. Editor of Forest History Today since 2007.
Though not everyone is willing to put in the time to write a memoir, many people in U.S. land-management agencies nonetheless have careers and experiences worth sharing. Lauren Turner, a former career U.S. Forest Service employee, has done a great service for historians and others interested in the history of women in the Forest Service by interviewing 41 women who worked outdoor jobs at some point in their careers at every level of the agency. She asked each woman the same core questions, which they answered either by email or in telephone conversations. Instead of reprinting edited transcripts, Turner wove the answers into biographical sketches in which each woman’s personality comes through, making Outdoor Women Inside the Forest Service, 1971–2018 (McDonald & Woodward Publishing, 2018) an engaging and revelatory book. The chapters follow the agency’s basic organizational chart, grouping the careers of technicians, district-level natural resource professionals, forest-level natural resource professionals, and so forth, up through the line officers. In her concluding chapter, “Retrospective and Prospect,” Turner recaps the history these women lived through and made, using their own words. She then summarizes the pros and cons of working for the Forest Service from the perspective of the women interviewed, offering some hints as to why working for the agency may not be an attractive career option for many of today’s young women. Turner more explicitly discusses the issues facing the agency today, such as sexual harassment, declining budgets, and institutionalized racial and gender bias, and their effects on women in the agency—and on the agency itself. And yet the majority of the women interviewed expressed support for those contemplating a career with the agency because of their deeply held belief in its mission. (JL)
Forest History Today Spring/Fall 2018, Page 66.
OldSmokeys Newsletter —Spring 2019
Newsletter of the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Retirees
Reviewed by Gail Kimbell, Chief Emeritus, U.S. Forest Service
Lauren Turner’s new book will draw many readers. Outdoor Women Inside the Forest Service, 1971-2018 profiles the careers of 42 women in professions uncommon to their gender. Lauren weaves in Forest Service history and the changing demographics through the decades. This book surprised me. Who were all these women?
When I started as a junior forester, there weren’t any others for miles around. After a while, I needed some female company. I tried the Tupperware party thing. Not for me. You start stalking women in other agencies, distant offices, meetings, book clubs, etc. And here in this book are all these women who also wore boots and hardhats to work, studied insects, could pack and ride a horse, jumped out of airplanes into fires, hooted for owls in old growth forests, not only could read maps but make maps, could back a trailer and change a tire. They were out there the same time I was thinking I was the Lone Ranger.
It wasn’t always easy. Some of the stories describe hardships in the workplace or in the work/life balance. Opportunities for training and advancement were not always equitably provided. Oversight of workplace communications and interplay was in-consistent. Fire camp and other travel sometimes got out of control. There is no limit to the number of jerks put upon this earth, even inside the Forest Service.
You will find in these stories a number of women who chose to do it all. They chose careers, life partners, and children. The testament to how well this worked out is to visit with the off-spring—some of the most put-together young people around. They know as little ones they can do anything they are willing to work hard for. They love the out-of-doors and have an innate sense of conservation.
As I write this, I sit at the shore of Lake Mead, 140 feet below full pool. Read Lauren Turner’s book. It doesn’t include every story, but it includes a range that encompasses the tremendous transitions made in the U.S. Forest Service from 1971 to 2018.
Outdoor Women inside the Forest Service, 1971-2018, by Lauren Turner (ISBN-13 978-1935778455), 466 pages, paperback, published November 15, 2018, by McDonald & Woodward Publishing.
Lauren Turner was born in Merced, California, and grew up in Yosemite National Park. After high school and some college, her early work led to an entry-level clerical position with the US Forest Service in West Yellowstone, Montana. In mid-career, Lauren completed a degree in biological sciences at California State University Stanislaus which qualified her for subsequent positions she held at different locations as a wildlife biologist, an ecosystem manager, and ultimately as a district ranger — at West Yellowstone, Montana! She retired from the Forest Service in 2010 and, along with her husband and two cats — all of whom share a passion for organic gardening — lives in Sequim, Washington.
Retirement allowed Lauren time to reflect on her decades of work with the Forest Service and a growing awareness of, and appreciation for, the transformation of the Forest Service — the unprecedented acceptance of women into what had been a male-dominated work force — in which she had actively participated.