You're not getting rid of me: Cultivating space for women in the U.S. Forest Service, 1950–1990

Carla R Fisher, Purdue University


In the 1970s women in the United States slowly increased their economic opportunities as they challenged traditional ideas of women’s place in the home and in public. This dissertation adds to the scholarship of the late twentieth century women’s and environmental movements by focusing on women employed in the natural resources occupations of the United States Forest Service. The Forest Service experienced a number of changes in the postwar period that led to more opportunities for women and minorities and also led to a conflicted workforce. The women’s and environmental movements of the 1970s pushed for changes in society and also impacted the natural resource agencies and their attitudes towards land management and human resources. Legislation and court decisions legitimated many of these arguments and employers were forced to alter their hiring policies. For the first time, women entered the Forest Service as foresters, biologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, landscape architects, firefighters, and trail workers and forced the agency to alter its policies and traditional processes. By tracing the impacts of a 1973 sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by Gene Bernardi, a female employee, and the subsequent consent decree in Region Five this dissertation examines the limitations of legislative changes and court decisions and the importance of employee participation in creating a diversified workforce. The legislative changes and court decisions that provided pressure for altering traditional practices were not enough to create necessary change in the workplace. It was the efforts of the employees of the Forest Service that led to significant changes that opened up opportunities for women and minorities. And it was the success of these employees that also led to the backlash during the 1990s and the continuous arguments over definitions of merit, experience, and equality.




Gabin, Purdue University.

Subject Area

American history|Womens studies|Natural Resource Management|Gender studies

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server