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Yellowstone Books: Women in Wonderland

What’s the next best thing to visiting Yellowstone National Park? Reading Yellowstone National Park!

No doubt you’ve visited or walked by at least one Yellowstone Association bookshop during your visits to Yellowstone. If you haven’t, you should make a point of stopping in; they provide a valuable service, stocking Yellowstone books as well as multimedia, souvenirs and posters.

Befitting a park of Yellowstone’s stature, there is a bevy of books that chronicle every aspect of the Park: its history, its ecology, its delights, its importance. And with each passing year, more and more Yellowstone books are published or thought up.

Of course, there is also a bevy of books that don’t touch on Yellowstone solely but nonetheless bear relation to our first national park. Books that cover topics as diverse as the natural history of bison, Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, poaching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, highway construction, modern environmentalism, Western Native American history, wildlife art, and many other topics.

So if you’ve always been curious about Yellowstone books or Yellowstone related books but don’t know where to start, never fear! Every Monday, we’ll be coming out with a book recommendation, ranging from Yellowstone Association bestsellers to relevant tomes. And to start, we’ve selected a recently released classic of Yellowstone history: Elizabeth A. Watry’s Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legends, and Legacies of Yellowstone National Park.

From the get-go, in her Introduction, Watry explains the impetus behind her book and situates it in a larger historical context:

“With the publication of Peter Nabokov’s Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park, the narrative of Yellowstone’ cultural history has become more inclusive in recent years, but it is still missing an important component—the contributions of women. It is my sincerest desire, with this volume, to remedy that omission by giving the women of Yellowstone a voice that will be heard through the centuries” (1).

Watry profiles the lives of fourteen women in Wonderland, ranging from the frontier “ordeal” (in Watry’s words) of Emma Carpenter Cowan to the forthright swagger of Marguerite “Peg” Arnold, who became the first permanent woman ranger in the National park Service. The women in this book are shopkeepers, ecologists, hostesses, and writers, among other professions and roles.

Women in Wonderland is well researched and well designed, with numerous photos strategically set to complement Watry’s strong, well-written, no-nonsense prose. The lives of these women weave through some of the Park’s most important developments and events: the period between the establishment of Yellowstone National Park (1872) and the arrival of the Army (1886), the year the automobiles arrived through the Roosevelt Arch (1915), the year of the Hebgen Lake Earthquake (1959). And, best of all, the stories stand on their own as well as they cohere to form an image of Yellowstone women.

If you’re looking to dive into the wide world of Yellowstone books, Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legends, and Legacies of Yellowstone National Park is a great place to start.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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