The history of lady lookouts

  • Source: Smithsonian Magazine
  • Published: 03/30/2021 12:00 AM

In a year when so many of us have struggled with feeling isolated in our homes or apartments, living alone in a 14-by-14-foot cabin perched thousands of feet above the wilderness might not sound enticing. For more than a century, though, across the United States, a few intrepid Americans have sought out those remote towers as not just a job, but a lifestyle. And unlike so many jobs that were long considered “man’s work,” women broke the glass ceiling of fire lookout positions almost as soon as the job was established. “Women have earned their place in the history of forest fire lookouts,” says Dixie Boyle, a longtime lookout and author going into her 34th season. Before American women were granted the right to vote or allowed to have bank accounts in their name, they were trekking into forests alone, manning lookout stations, and helping to save millions of acres of wilderness from wildfires across the country.


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