Trailblazing Women of Interior

March is National Women’s History Month; and today marks International Women’s Day. The contributions of women are far-reaching and indispensable to our work at Interior. Women in public service have had to overcome tremendous obstacles and this month we’re highlighting just a few of the many who have contributed to our mission in a two-part series. 

First Woman Geologist at U.S. Geological Survey: Florence Bascom


Photo by U.S. Geological Survey. 

In 1896, Florence Bascom became U.S. Geological Survey’s first female geologist. She was also the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Bascom combined her teaching career with active field and laboratory work for USGS in the Piedmont region near Philadelphia for 40 years.

First Tribal Policewoman: Julia Wades in the Water

A woman, Julia Wades in the Water, stands up for this whole body shot. She is wearing traditional tribal dress and the photo is in black and white.
Photo of Julia Wades in the Water courtesy of the University of Alberta.

Julia Wades in the Water's bravery opened the door for many more women to serve in law enforcement throughout Indian Country. A member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, she retired in the 1930s after 25 years of serving Indian Country Law Enforcement. Her commitment and determination to serve has inspired many. It may have all started with her, but since then, women throughout Indian Country have continued her legacy by making law enforcement their career choice. 

First Woman Field Biologist at Seney National Wildlife Refuge: Elizabeth Beard Losey


Betty Losey doing field work at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Archives.

Elizabeth Beard Losey was hired in 1947 as the first female field research biologist at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Stationed at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to chronicle the importance of beavers in waterfowl management, her outstanding research earned her induction into the Wildlife Society in 1948 as its first female professional member. Losey continued her love for wildlife and her zeal for field studies as a scientist, author, historian and professor at the University of Michigan – volunteering at Seney into her nineties and serving as a beloved role model for a generation of biologists.

First Native American Woman Superintendent in the National Park Service: Barbara Booher

Booher is shown in front of an exhibit displaying photographs of Native Americans. She is wearing the National Park Service 75th Anniversary pin.
Courtesy of Doug Struck/Baltimore Sun. 

Barbara Booher became the first Native American woman superintendent in the NPS when she took on the leadership of Custer National Monument (now Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument).

First Woman Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System: Cynthia Martinez


Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cynthia Martinez leads the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System - the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants. The Refuge System comprises more than 150 million acres and 563 units. There is a national wildlife refuge in every state and U.S. territory.

First African American Woman to Lead the U.S. Park Police: Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, Chief of the U.S. Park Police, stand in front of a stone bridge in Rock Creek Park.
Photo by National Park Service.

Before becoming the first African American Woman to lead the U.S. Park Police, Pamela A. Smith had a distinguished law enforcement career. She served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division. She was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.