Isabel Wasson (1897-1995) was a geology graduate student when she led a summer tour of national parks in the western US. The superintendent of Yellowstone was so impressed hearing her deliver a lecture to her tourees that he offered her a job to develop interpretive tours. Wasson wrote to her college alumnae magazine, "Next summer I am to be a ranger in Yellowstone Park. You never heard of a woman ranger? Well, neither have I." In 1920, Wasson became the first female seasonal ranger at Yellowstone. She continued her geology studies at Columbia University as well and became one of the first female petroleum geologists in the world.
After explorations in remote areas of South America, Wasson along with her husband moved to the Chicago area in 1926 where she pivoted her focus to education. For over 50 years, she taught public school students as well as adults in a variety of settings while writing numerous scholarly articles on the geology, ecology, and archaeology of northern Illinois.
Why this stop? Isabel Wasson lived in River Forest, the town adjacent to the Harlem/Lake Street Green Line Stop.
Watch Episode 4 of The National Parks—America’s Best Idea, Ken Burns’ exquisite PBS series to learn more about National Park rangers, including Isabel Wasson.
Connect — Wasson discovered an ancient Native American effigy mound not far from her home. Below is a map/drawing of the mound. Take a hike through Thatcher Woods and see if you can find it!