Elizabeth Watry, author of “Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legacies and Legends of Yellowstone National Park,” has been honored with an award for profiles of women who were influential in the park’s early days.
The WILLA award, named in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather, is sponsored by Women Writing the West. The award represents the best of published literature for women’s or girls’ stories set in the North American West, according to a statement released by Riverbend Publishing of Helena, Mont.
“Women in Wonderland” profiles 12 women who played important roles in the park’s history and development, from early hoteliers to groundbreaking government biologists.
“Most (of the women in the book) spent decades as rangers, scientists, interpreters, and entrepreneurs, shaping the park’s physical and cultural landscape,” said Dr. Mary Murphy, Montana State University historian and author of “Hope in Hard Times.” “This is a wonderful ‘hidden’ history, full of surprising stories, grounded in intensive research and written with charm.”
The women rangers in the book include Marguerite “Peg” Arnold, an intrepid adventurer who drove a Harley Davidson motorcycle from Philadelphia to Yellowstone in 1924 and was the first woman to become a permanent ranger in the National Park Service. Also featured is Dr. Mary Meagher, an expert on Yellowstone’s bison and overall park ecology, who blazed a path for women scientists in the park service. Among the early pioneers in the tourist trade were sisters Anna Trischman Pryor and Belle Trischman with their “Devil’s Kitchenette,” and Ida “Mom” Eagle of the Eagle’s Store in West Yellowstone.
Diane Smith, author of “Letters from Yellowstone,” said the book “places women front and center in the park’s wondrous history” Paul Schullery, author of “Mountain Tim” and “Searching for Yellowstone,” called it a “consistently engaging” book, and Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey praised the book “for its noteworthy contribution to women’s history.” The book includes numerous black and white photographs of the women and their lives in the park.
The book won the award for scholarly nonfiction. The other category finalists in the 15th annual competition were “Divinely Guided: The California Work of the Women’s National Indian Association” by Valerie Sherer Mathes (Texas Tech University Press) and “Colorado Women: A History” by Gail M. Beaton (University Press of Colorado).
The awards are judged by professional librarians at colleges, universities, public libraries and research institutions. Women Writing the West is a nonprofit association of writers and other literature-oriented professionals, writing and promoting the women’s West.