It’s Women’s History Month and we are celebrating a few of our Tri Delta trailblazers—sisters who accomplished firsts in their fields, setting the stage and providing inspiration for those of us who follow.
Herma Albertson Baggley, Idaho, became the first female park naturalist at Yellowstone National Park. She used her experience as a botanist and former college professor to become a lecturer, guide, and museum worker for the Parks Service. A pioneer in the field of botany, Herma was the co-author of a Yellowstone plant guide still in use today.
Yellowstone’s First Female Naturalist
She was born in 1896 in Inwood, Iowa. Herma graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in botany and a minor in philosophy, receiving double honors for her academic achievements. After graduation, Herma took a summer job with the National Park Service (NPS) at Yellowstone National Park as a naturalist and guide. As a naturalist, Herma shared her wide knowledge of botany and natural history with visitors to the park. While working at the park, she helped design the first nature trail to Old Faithful. After returning to the University of Idaho and earning her master’s degree in botany in 1929, Herma took a full-time position as an instructor in the botany department.
After a year, she left the university to return to Yellowstone as the first permanent female naturalist in the NPS. Using her skills as an educator, she worked throughout the park as a guide, lecturer and museum worker, skillfully interpreting the natural environment and resources. Herma married George Baggley in 1931, who was the Chief Park Ranger in Yellowstone from 1929 to 1935, and she and George enjoyed the companionship of other park pioneers.
A Path to Follow
Herma authored more than 20 articles for NPS publications and was attributed to the discovery of the rubber boa snake. Along with park naturalist Dr. Walter McDougall, she co-authored a 1936 guide called “Plants of Yellowstone Park,” still in print today. Although Herma took an office position for the National Park Service due to an injury in 1933, her love of plants, wildflowers and teaching never dwindled until her death in 1981. Herma Baggley left Yellowstone a legacy of information and nature trail development. Though seemingly modest at the time, her path established a way for others like her to follow.
Today, Colorado State University offers the George F. and Herma A. Baggley Graduate Scholarship for those interested in pursuing careers in forestry, wildlife and natural resources.