Cover image for Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement By Susan Rimby

Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement

Susan Rimby


$72.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-05624-1

$32.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-05625-8

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224 pages
6" × 9"
15 b&w illustrations

Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement

Susan Rimby

“Though much has been written about her male counterparts, Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement is the first book dedicated to Mira Lloyd Dock and her work. Susan Rimby weaves these layers of Dock’s story together with the greater historical context of the era to create a vivid and accessible picture of Progressive Era conservation in the eastern United States and Dock’s important role and legacy in the movement.”


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For her time, Mira Lloyd Dock was an exceptional woman: a university-trained botanist, lecturer, women’s club leader, activist in the City Beautiful movement, and public official—the first woman to be appointed to Pennsylvania’s state government. In her twelve years on the Pennsylvania Forest Commission, she allied with the likes of J. T. Rothrock, Gifford Pinchot, and Dietrich Brandis to help bring about a new era in American forestry. She was also an integral force in founding and fostering the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy in Mont Alto, which produced generations of Pennsylvania foresters before becoming Penn State's Mont Alto campus. Though much has been written about her male counterparts, Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement is the first book dedicated to Mira Lloyd Dock and her work. Susan Rimby weaves these layers of Dock’s story together with the greater historical context of the era to create a vivid and accessible picture of Progressive Era conservation in the eastern United States and Dock’s important role and legacy in that movement.
“Though much has been written about her male counterparts, Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement is the first book dedicated to Mira Lloyd Dock and her work. Susan Rimby weaves these layers of Dock’s story together with the greater historical context of the era to create a vivid and accessible picture of Progressive Era conservation in the eastern United States and Dock’s important role and legacy in the movement.”
“Rimby’s work on Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era conservation movement is a long-needed update to previous scholars’ work on women’s contributions to Progressive Era conservation. While ostensibly a biographical work, it succeeds at accomplishing much more: the presentation of a thoroughly researched twenty-first-century scholarly work on the importance of women during this era. Importantly, it teases out all the strands of a very complex social movement through its analysis of the work of a single female individual.”
“In her biography of conservationist Mira Lloyd Dock, Susan Rimby fuses environmental and women’s history, highlighting the often overlooked connection between the two subgenres. Building on Carolyn Merchant’s idea of the Progressive conservation movement’s ‘gendered dialectic’ and the work of Dorcetta Taylor and others, Rimby uses the life of Dock to further examine the interrelationship between class, gender, and conservation during the Progressive Era. . . . Rimby’s treatment of Dock enriches both environmental and women’s history by providing the story of a remarkable woman who rose above many of the constraints of her time to effect positive change on the society in which she lived.”
“In Rimby’s telling, Dock is both exceptional and exemplary, a woman whose life and career illustrate the opportunities and obstacles encountered by ambitious, privileged women at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Rimby places her subject solidly within a narrative of Progressive Era reform, using sociologist Belinda Robnett’s concept of a ‘bridge leader’ to characterize Dock’s influential though largely informal role in shaping Pennsylvania’s early conservation policy. Dock crafted a career as a public figure able to coordinate the work of ‘both the professional, scientific, conservation world and the grassroots network of women’s clubs.’ . . . Dock had a strong hand in shaping both the cities and the forests of the state, and of the region as well.”
“The women of the conservation movement are beginning to earn their due attention from biographers and historians. To the work of Jack Davis, Dyana Furmansky, Tina Gianquitto, Nancy Unger, and others we can now add Susan Rimby’s admirable biography of Pennsylvanian Mira Lloyd Dock. . . . This is a solid work of primary research based on Dock’s papers in the Library of Congress, various collections from the rich holdings of historical societies scattered throughout Pennsylvania, and other manuscript collections. It is firmly grounded in the current historiography of both the Progressive Era conservation movement and women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Any historian studying these areas would improve his or her understanding [of] the era by reading Susan Rimby’s Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement.”
“Though much has been written about her male counterparts, Mira Lloyd Dock and the Progressive Era Conservation Movement is the first book dedicated to Mira Lloyd Dock and her work. Susan Rimby weaves these layers of Dock’s story together with the greater historical context of the era to create a vivid and accessible picture of Progressive Era conservation in the eastern United States and Dock’s important role and legacy in that movement.”
“Rimby’s book should encourage more scholarship on women and, more broadly, the construction of gender identity within the conservation and environmental movements.”
“Mira Lloyd Dock was a Progressive’s Progressive. An ardent conservationist, a well-trained botanist, and a tireless member of the Pennsylvania State Forest Commission, this early twentieth-century Pennsylvanian fought hard for women’s rights and conservation in the Keystone State and throughout the country. Dock is a reminder, Susan Rimby’s fine biography makes clear, of the power that an engaged citizenry holds in its quest for social equality and environmental justice.”
“This book does a wonderful job of weaving the impact of women's groups, politically powerful men, and a variety of historical events and trends into the life of this interesting and influential woman. Mira Lloyd Dock is by no means a household name, yet Susan Rimby's lively, well-written account of her life is worthy of a wide readership.”
“I have wanted to know more about Mira Lloyd Dock for some time, and Susan Rimby’s wonderful biography addresses all of the questions about Dock that intrigued me. Rimby teaches us a great deal about the relationship between urban and rural conservation in the Progressive Era. She also offers fresh insight into the gender politics of that formative period.”
“With thorough research and clear writing, Susan Rimby reveals the complexities of Progressive Era environmental reform. This is a history of ideas put into action, and Dock is a fascinating figure through whom to tell the stories of conservation and women in public life. In Rimby's hands, Dock emerges as a savvy strategist, a tireless worker, and a dreamer with staggering ambitions. Perhaps the book's most impressive accomplishment is re-creating the era's political context with such detail in order to show how Dock got away with it.”
“At long last we have a well-deserved biography of the intrepid Mira Lloyd Dock. Susan Rimby recognizes Dock as the strong and pivotal leader she was, not just as a helpmate to Rothrock, Pinchot, McFarland, and others. Dock rightfully stands beside them, demanding the reclamation of Pennsylvania’s devastated landscapes and cities from industrial excesses and stirring the flames of an emerging national environmental movement. Examining Dock within the context of women’s advocacy groups during the Progressive Era, Rimby is to be applauded for restoring her to a proper niche in the history of Pennsylvania and the nation.”
“In this very readable biography, historian Susan Rimby offers a fascinating look into the life of Dock, a trained botanist, clubwoman, and forestry activist whose imprint is felt today in the natural landscapes she helped shape and save.”

Susan Rimby is Professor of History at Shippensburg University.


List of Figures


Introduction: Dock, Progressive Era Conservation, and Why It Matters

1 A Reformer Grows in Dauphin County

2 From Harrisburg to Uhlingen

3 The City Beautiful

4 “More for Forests”

5 “Better Housekeeping Out of Doors”

6 “This Has Driven Women into Suffrage”

7 An Active Retirement

Conclusion: Dock’s Legacy and Significance

Epilogue: From Pine Grove Furnace to Wildwood Lake—And Beyond





Dock, Progressive Era Conservation, and Why It Matters

In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (2006), Richard Louv extols the benefits of physical contact with nature for children. According to Louv, children learn creativity and concentration, reduce stress, and become more fit through contact with the natural world. Yet for reasons ranging from the prevalence of electronic entertainment to the accelerating destruction of green spaces, American youngsters increasingly lack outdoor experiences. Decrying this trend, Louv argues, “To take nature and natural play away from children may be tantamount to withholding oxygen.”

Cindy Ross, a columnist for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, daily the Patriot-News, wholeheartedly endorsed Louv’s thesis in 2007. Recounting her own experiences hiking the Continental Divide with her husband and two young daughters, Ross urged other parents to hike, camp, and study nature along with their children. The time will be well spent, she assured them: “Time spent in the natural world will equip your child to thrive. It will leave them self-assured, happy and peaceful. Even very small doses of nature reap tremendous benefits.” Ross acknowledged, however, that Harrisburg residents might find it difficult to enjoy such opportunities, since “each year, 53,000 acres of land are developed in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

Progressive Era conservationist Mira Lloyd Dock would have agreed. In 1910, while serving as a Pennsylvania State Forest commissioner, Dock equated outdoor recreation with physical vigor, mental acuity, and emotional health. In her pamphlet Some Arbor Day Reminders and Suggestions, she wrote, “We need not only play-grounds and parks, but we need woods,—great, wide, far-reaching woods. . . . The hunter becomes more primal; the strong gain greater strength and clearer purpose; the weary soul achieves serenity.” As Louv and Ross have in the present era, Dock also worried about development and the loss of wilderness. One year after publishing her Arbor Day pamphlet, she acknowledged that two weak spots in Pennsylvania forestry remained: “the rapidity with which places of great beauty are being destroyed” and the “destruction of venerable and beautiful trees.”

The ideas Dock expressed in 1910 and 1911 are emblematic of those central to the Progressive Era’s conservation program. Simply put, the Progressive Era was a response to the problems engendered by late nineteenth-century industrialization and urbanization. Between 1890 and 1917, middle-class, well-educated, Progressive citizens dedicated themselves to correcting the worst features of turn-of-the-century life. Reformers were determined to save U.S. capitalism by making American institutions efficient, putting scientifically trained experts in charge of both private and public organizations. In the process, Progressives rid cities of political corruption, regulated corporations, and worked for their particular visions of social justice. New legislation limited working hours and mandated factory inspections. These laws, along with voluntary associations like settlement houses, ameliorated the harshness of life for immigrants and working-class citizens. The 1890–1917 conservation movement, with its scientific, rational, efficient impulses, was also a significant part of Progressive reform.

Historians have traditionally defined conservation as the care, protection, and management of natural resources. Historians situate the origins of the modern conservation movement in the late nineteenth century. After the Civil War, men and women worried about the effects of industry and urban growth on the environment. Using romantic and nationalist paradigms, groups as diverse as the 1870 Washburn Expedition to the Yellowstone region and the New York City Chamber of Commerce resolved to take action. In response to such pressures, both Congress and state governments passed protective laws. The Yellowstone Park Act of 1872 and New York’s 1885 Adirondacks Forest Commission Act, for example, were crafted out of the era’s environmental concerns. In such cases, public officials took action in the name of efficient resource management, whether they sought to preserve scenery or hoped to protect urban watersheds.

Conservation accelerated after 1890, when the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the frontier had closed. In the future, Americans would have fewer wildernesses to exploit. More importantly, perhaps, the census also showed that forest reserves and arable land had dwindled rapidly over the previous decades. Both utilitarian conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt and pure preservationists like John Muir moved to set aside wild areas, reclaim worn-out land, and conserve forest, water, and mineral resources. Utilitarians, who favored wise usage, sometimes clashed with preservationists. The latter perceived wilderness areas as sources of beauty and spiritual truth and therefore opposed all development in these regions. Muir and his allies in the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, for example, vehemently objected to the plan to dam Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley in 1914. Both groups of Progressive Era conservationists, however, also collaborated on projects such as the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. By 1917, the national model for conservation was well in place as Progressives turned their attention away from reform and concentrated on winning World War I.

Mira Lloyd Dock’s life and work provide many insights into the Progressive Era conservation movement. As a lecturer, clubwoman, and public official, she was heavily involved in Progressive Era conservation at the local, state, and federal levels. Her most ardent admirers said she did more for forests than any woman in America. Dock served as one of the first members of the Pennsylvania State Forest Commission, in which role she helped formulate policies that served as models for other northeastern industrial states. The first female to serve on any official public conservation board, she also worked closely with laywomen. Through her work with Pennsylvania, national, and international women’s groups, she educated, empowered, and facilitated female conservationists. She corresponded and consulted with women from remote local villages, medium-sized municipalities, and large cities. She closely allied herself with prominent male reformers such as U.S. chief forester Gifford Pinchot, American Civic Association president J. Horace McFarland, and German forester Sir Dietrich Brandis. As a university-educated botanist, she mediated between women amateurs and the professionally trained, scientifically minded men who formulated policies. For these reasons, her life and work shed particular light on women’s roles in the conservation movement.

Though she is more closely identified with forest conservation than any single other social concern, land reclamation and tree preservation represented only one aspect of Dock’s work. She first attracted public attention in Harrisburg’s turn-of-the-century City Beautiful campaign, and during her years as a forest commissioner she continued to work on municipal improvement projects. As a vice president of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women and later conservation chair for the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), her interests ranged from town beautification to public health to forestry to national parks. She served as the GFWC’s chairman of forestry well into the 1920s and continued to advise both clubwomen and Pennsylvania foresters during her retirement. Her life and work thus show the multifaceted nature of early twentieth-century conservation and the continuity between Progressive Era and post–World War I reform movements.

My work on Mira Lloyd Dock joins a large body of recent scholarship in both environmental and women’s history. Scholars have both confirmed the earlier histories and branched out in new directions. Some, for example, have discovered new motives and proponents for Progressive Era conservation. Richard Judd, Caroline Merchant, William Cronon, and Louis Warren have argued that groups as different as East Coast farmers and the U.S. Navy supported game-animal regulation, bird protection, and forestry. Warren, John Reiger, and Andrea J. Smalley have described how wealthy white sportsmen and women advocated wildlife and wilderness protection as both a means of preserving their pleasure grounds and establishing class-based, correct rules of recreational hunting. In the case of Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, Kimberly Jarvis has argued that conservation converged with patriotism, nostalgia, and regionalism to preserve a much-beloved natural feature, the Old Man of the Mountain. These motives for conservation persisted well into the twentieth century, as detailed in Jack E. Davis’s work on the creation of Everglades National Park and Peter Boag’s analysis of Mount Rushmore.

Four decades of study have expanded conservation history in other ways. Numerous scholars have analyzed the ways that Progressive Era conservation engendered racial and class conflict. Federal policies displaced Native Americans from national parks and catered to elite tourists. Federal Home Demonstration agents and southern colleges labored to teach African-Americans the one correct means of farming. New Jersey and New York removed mixed-race populations and the rural poor from the Ramapo and Catskill Mountains, where wealthy citizens owned vacation homes and preserves.

Conservation also embodied nativist sentiments. State governments charged high fees for aliens’ hunting licenses and in some cases banned noncitizens from both hunting and owning firearms. Proponents framed these laws as the only means of preventing the “slaughter of song-birds by Italians.” Immigrants, however, were not passive during what Adam Rome describes as an environmental “culture war.” In both New York and Pennsylvania, for example, mountaineers bitterly opposed state commissions that limited their rights to hunt and cut timber on forest reservations. Local residents poached game, set fires, and threatened the foresters who had been sent to civilize them. Immigrant and working-class citizens lacking hunting license fees and, needing to supplement meager wages, ignored their state’s game laws in order to feed their families.

Historians have also analyzed what Caroline Merchant describes as a “gendered dialectic” in the Progressive conservation movement. This culturally constructed discourse sometimes fomented conflict among allies. While the clash between male utilitarians and female preservationists over the damming of the Hetch Hetchy watershed is well known in the annals of environmental history, women and men fought other gendered battles as well. Journalist-conservationists like George Bird Grinnell and Charles Halleck blamed turn-of-the-century female millinery for the decimation of bird populations. Male reformers, fearful of being labeled effeminate, excluded or marginalized women in organizations such as the American Forestry Association.

While studying contested areas, scholars have also investigated the meaning of nature for American citizens. Jennifer Price, Finis Dunaway, Susan Schrepfer, and Emily Greenwald—drawing upon bird protection, nature photography, and mountain climbing—explored how views of the environment were shaped by the dominant, middle-class culture. Later scholars such as Merchant, Smalley, Rome, and Gregg Mitman have examined how recreational hunting and health tourism both reflected dominant societal values and expressed fears about the consequences of “over civilization” on American males. As Amy Green’s work on author, naturalist, and wildlife photographer Gene Stratton Porter shows, naturalist photography also provided women with the opportunity to challenge gender roles. Paul Boyer, Joel Tarr, Kimberly Smith, and Elizabeth Blum have studied urban cleanup and beautification movements, concluding that visions of “positive environmentalism” inspired both white and black middle-class reformers during the Progressive Era. These same values, according to Kevin Armitage, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, and Leslie Paris, shaped the agendas of nature-study educators and the directors of children’s summer camps. Sanitarians, teachers, city planners, and recreationists all sought to uplift city dwellers and improve their health, behavior, and character by creating a wholesome and pleasing physical environment away from unwholesome urban influences. At the same time, they hoped to teach immigrant children an “American” appreciation of nature.

Other scholars broadened the scope of conservation history and in the process discovered forgotten activists. As early as 1973, Robert Clarke saw parallels between the wilderness protection movement and a contemporary urban sanitation campaign. Martin Melosi, Robert Gottlieb, Suellen Hoy, Maureen Flanagan, Elizabeth Blum, and Adam Rome have also situated this municipal improvement crusade firmly within the realm of Progressive conservation. Gottlieb has argued as well that reformers like Dr. Alice Hamilton, who investigated industrial hazards, were environmental reformers. Gottlieb’s new definitions of conservation history and Caroline Merchant’s call, in 1990, for “a gender perspective” in conservation history led to interest in women’s roles within the movement. These studies have revealed the contributions of female reformers and women’s voluntary associations, elaborated upon gendered environmental work and belief systems, and uncovered gendered fault lines within the conservation movement. Historians have also analyzed the ways in which women used the movement to create new roles for themselves and push against societal boundaries.

Two twenty-first-century works, Dorcetta Taylor’s 2002 report Race, Class, Gender, and American Environmentalism and Jenny Price’s “Remaking American Environmentalism: On the Banks of the L.A. River” (2008), offer new paradigms for conservation history. Taylor ties together various strands of environmental reform, synthesizing the work of earlier scholars. She identifies four major pathways of environmental reform—a wilderness, wildlife, and recreation approach; an urban environmental agenda; a working-class environmental agenda; and an environmental justice agenda. The origins of the first three pathways can be traced to the Progressive movement. According to Taylor, race, class, and gender, along with education, determined who worked in each of these areas. Taylor also acknowledges that Progressive reformers had social control as well as conservation and humanitarian motives. Price, responding to critics of the modern environmental movement, argues for a “fourth wave” of activism. In this new environmental model, Americans would focus on sustainable and equitable living in ways that merge the agendas of Taylor’s groups. While other historians have debated aspects of Taylor’s argument both before and after her essay’s publication, her thesis remains an important paradigm in the study of conservation. Price’s work, in the meantime, encourages us to reexamine past environmental movements, particularly their “iconic moments.”

As is often the case, the important work of earlier scholars raises new questions about Progressive Era conservation. These questions inform my own work on Mira Lloyd Dock. For one thing, was the Progressive Era division of labor among conservationists really so neat? U.S. citizens, for example, recognized the connection between loss of Adirondack forests and dwindling water levels in the Hudson River and Erie Canal. By the 1890s, conservationists, educators, and social reformers, particularly in the urban Northeast, increasingly saw wild areas as essential for the physical and mental health of all city residents, not just wealthy sportsmen. Under these circumstances, would Progressives have limited themselves to one particular area of conservation? Or would they have fought, simultaneously, for an array of related reforms?

Second, how did gender and education influence work within the conservation movement? Did women and men always perform different conservation tasks? Did males in the conservation movement perceive professional women in the same way they viewed amateurs? During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women’s educational and professional opportunities expanded greatly. Between 1870 and 1920, female college enrollments grew by 26 percent and the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women doubled. Women earned no doctorates at U.S. universities in 1870 but received almost 10 percent of those awarded in 1910. After earning their degrees, some women carved out lifelong careers. Within the sciences, women trained and worked as physicians, chemists, botanists, and naturalists. Industrial chemist Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to graduate from MIT, collaborated in Boston with male students, businessmen, and public health workers. While a member of the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases and an employee for the U.S. Bureau of Labor, Dr. Alice Hamilton likewise worked closely with men. Even clubwomen, long considered amateurs, increasingly came to conservation work with college educations. Given these trends, the links between men and women, amateurs and professionals, need further exploration.

Conservation work in local U.S. communities has been documented in many excellent case studies. Much of this work, however, deals with the Midwest and West, or with larger cities such as New York, Chicago, or even Pittsburgh. Yet communities and rural areas throughout the United States suffered from environmental degradation. When faced with industrial pollution, diminishing resources, and haphazard urbanization, their residents also developed conservation impulses. In 1997, Richard Judd argued that further local and regional studies were needed in order to more fully comprehend Progressive Era conservation history. While works such as Amy Green’s on the Indiana Limberlost region and Jack Davis’s on the Everglades add much to the environmental narrative, more needs to be done. Furthermore, did conservation work end with U.S. entry into World War I, as historians such as William O’Neill, William Chafe, and J. Stanley Lemons have contended was true of other social reform movements? Or did work on behalf of the environment continue? Many studies argue convincingly that national park creation and wildlife preservation continued, and in fact thrived, during the conservative postwar era. For example, Elaine Weiss states that the Progressive reform agenda—expanding career opportunities for women, female suffrage, and conservation—was well woven into the Woman’s Land Army of 1917–19. Such studies mesh well with more recent women’s history research, which has found continuity between female reform activities during the Progressive Era and in the 1920s. Similarly, this scholarship supports the work of historians who have traced the origins of New Deal conservation and the post–World War II environmental movement to Progressive conservation.

Historians of women as well as conservation historians have added much to this narrative. As Kathryn Kish Sklar has pointed out, thousands of ordinary American women were heavily involved in reform movements during the first two decades of the twentieth century. These women used maternalist rhetoric to justify their involvement in public affairs and focused their efforts on reforms that benefited women and children. Although most women did not yet have the vote, maternalist claims enabled Progressive activists to achieve many of their political objectives. Reform work also created new opportunities and needs among women. According to Robyn Muncy, female professionals used maternalist rhetoric to justify their entry into social work, public health, nursing, home economics, and some medical specialties. Anne Firor Scott found that Progressive reformers, frustrated with their lack of political clout, were also ardent suffragists.

Female reformers functioned much like chemist Ellen Swallows Richards, who mobilized housewives against industrial pollution as a “self-defense” measure, and General Federation of Women’s Clubs president Mary Belle King Sherman, who championed national parks as a means of educating and protecting the heritage of future generations. Women who worked to save birds, clean up slums, teach nature study, and preserve their regional wildlands used similar maternalist rhetoric. Many of these women, as Jack Davis and Elaine Weiss have shown, also involved themselves in the suffrage movement. More study of the links between Progressive Era conservation and women’s rights needs to be done. James Longhurst’s work on the 1965–75 Pittsburgh anti–air pollution group GASP provides an excellent model for this work.

This biography of Mira Lloyd Dock adds to conservation history in several ways. First, an understanding of Dock’s life and work illuminates the actions of local and state governments that protected wildlands and reclaimed despoiled acreage, leading us to consider how and why such accomplishments were achieved. Both governments and voluntary organizations cleaned, beautified, and improved the quality of life in eastern municipalities, but how and why did improvement movements develop in smaller American villages, towns, and cities?

Second, a study of Dock’s life and work sheds light on the principle figures involved in East Coast wilderness conservation. Who were these activists? Who were their allies and constituencies? How did middle-class women figure into a movement often dominated by elite white males? Did males and females work on the same projects, or did each develop niches? Did females and males in the East ever clash, as Californians did over the battle to preserve Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy headwaters? Did a gendered fault line characterize conservation work? Did a gendered dialectic emerge among Dock and her colleagues and allies? If so, how did this dialectic influence their work?

Third, Dock’s example shows how the contributions of professional women affected the Progressive Era conservation movement. How did scientifically trained professional males and laywomen alike react to the advice and work of professional women? Did an educational chasm exist in the movement between experts and amateurs? Moreover, did conservation create opportunities for women in the way that other Progressive movements did?

Fourth, the present study considers whether women within the Progressive conservationist movement resorted to the same types of maternalist rhetoric used by women’s clubs, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Settlement House Movement. That is, did they argue that conservation was a logical extension of traditional, female domesticity? And if so, was this necessary to justify women’s involvement to male colleagues and collaborators? Was it the only way to convince a dubious public of the appropriateness of women’s conservation work?

Finally, a review of Dock’s life and work illustrates the linkage of conservation and women’s rights, inviting consideration of how lack of voting rights affected the efficacy of female conservationists and how political impotence propelled women into suffrage and feminism.

In any historical study, definitions and sources must be addressed and questions outlined. Although conservation history is a part of the larger field of environmental history, the two terms should not be used interchangeably. Just as the subject of the modern environmental movement is broader than that of Progressive Era conservation, environmental history encompasses more than studying the ways in which past generations cared for, protected, and managed natural resources. According to Donald Worster, environmental history includes three distinct areas: ecology, or the structure and distribution of past natural environments; production, or the interaction of technology with the environment; and cognition, or human perceptions, ideologies, and values concerning the environment. Environmental history, which dates from the 1970s, explores how the environment over time has affected humans and how they have affected it in return. This focus on the role and places of nature in human life is far more complex than those of earlier conservation histories. The goals, strategies, and projects of a Gifford Pinchot or a Mira Lloyd Dock, therefore, were clearly different from those of latter-day environmental activists.

The sources used to study Dock’s life and work encompass a wide variety of archival materials. These include Dock’s personal papers, Pennsylvania’s state documents, materials from national voluntary groups, and the records of local women’s clubs housed in county historical societies. The latter source can be particularly problematic. As Anne Firor Scott acknowledges, a wide gap sometimes exists between the policies of national organizations and the activities of their local affiliates. Laudatory anniversary histories and official club minutes documented worthy goals but might also mask ineffectiveness and failures. It was, and is, often the case with voluntary organizations that a few members do the difficult work while the majority of members show up for social events. As a correspondent complained to Dock in a 1908 letter about Pittsburgh-area club activities, “The interest displayed by most clubs in legislative matters is somewhat discouraging, and I sometimes doubt if it is worth the effort made to arouse it.” Nevertheless, these local club documents give valuable insights into women’s conservation work on the grassroots level.

In his 1910 classic, The Fight for Conservation, Pinchot recognized the pivotal role women’s organizations played in preserving forest, water, and human resources. He no doubt considered his colleague and friend Mira Lloyd Dock one of the undisputed leaders in this work. A close look at her life and work—so rich in accomplishment for trees, communities, and people—does much to illuminate this complex and multifaceted subject.