Tag Archive for: womens history month

Elzada Clover, the first botanist to catalog plants in the Grand Canyon and one of the first women to traverse the Colorado.

Elzada Clover: The Botanist Of The Grand Canyon

Elzada Urseba Clover was born in Auburn, Nebraska in 1897, the seventh of nine children of Maynard French Clover and Sarah Gates Clover. She had six sisters (Alice, Mabel, Bessie, Vida, Cora, and Maud) and two brothers (Maynard and Verne).

She grew up on her father’s farm and attended high school in the nearby town of Peru. Her mother died in 1913 and her father remarried around 1925 and moved to Texas, where he set up as a farmer near Alamo.

Clover began her career as a public school teacher in 1919, working first in Nebraska and later in Texas; she also supervised an Indian mission school in the latter state. She graduated from Nebraska State Teachers College in 1930 and went on to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for her M.S. (1932) and Ph.D. (1935) degrees. The subject of her doctoral thesis was the vegetation of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Elzada Clover, the first female botanist of the Grand Canyon to catalog the plant life there.

via University of Utah

Elzada is most famous for her 1938 expedition down the Colorado River. In fact, she was the first woman to successfully travel by boat down the Colorado, at the time still largely unexplored and treacherous. During that expedition, she planned to record and discover new plant species along the river.

While that is a long list of accomplishments for any individual, Elzada Clover did this at a time when for the most part women weren’t accepted in the sciences. She heard repeatedly before her expedition that the Colorado River is “no place for a woman,” and she was denied any title above instructor for many years at the University of Michigan. Elzada Clover proved them wrong. And she is credited with identifying over 50 species of desert plants and powerfully influencing the future of botany.

Elzada Clover, the first female botanist of the Grand Canyon to catalog the plant life there.

Grand Canyon Superintendent Tillotson, Dr Clover, and Norm Nevills, 12 July 1938.
via NPS Photo

No woman had launched down the Colorado River and survived. The river had claimed many men, too, with its force and fury. Knifing through seven American states and parts of Mexico over 6 million years, the river had created a deep, winding gouge in the earth best known for the Grand Canyon.

The lone woman to attempt the river had been Bessie Hyde, who with her husband, Glen, set off in 1928 for their honeymoon. Both the trip and marriage were short-lived; the Hydes never reached their destination and their bodies were never found.

Now came a U-M professor and a graduate assistant named Lois Jotter. “Just because the only other woman who ever attempted the trip was drowned is no reason women have any more to fear than men,” Jotter told a reporter.

The Colorado River Expedition

Elzada was appointed an instructor in botany at the University of Michigan in 1935, as well as assistant curator of its botanical gardens. With her research and teaching focused on the Cactaceae, Clover was collecting cacti in the Colorado Plateau (Utah) in 1937 when her dreams of exploring the plants of the Grand Canyon first began to take shape.

She then started planning a research trip down the Colorado River to catalog its flora, and the university gave her some funding for the trip in the expectation that it would yield specimens for its collection. Although she originally intended to go by pack mule, she discussed the idea of going by boat instead with the pioneering Colorado River boatman, Norman Nevills, whom she met on a collecting expedition in Mexican Hat, Utah.

Elzada Clover, the first female botanist of the Grand Canyon to catalog the plant life there.

via University of Utah

Rushing down the river in three green-and-white wooden boats, Clover, at 42, was the oldest. In addition to teaching botany at U-M—where she had earned her doctorate—she was an assistant curator at the Botanical Gardens. Jotter, the daughter of a U-M forestry professor, was studying both botany and biology.

Also on the trip were graduate students, Eugene Atkinson, artist Bill Gibson (who took photographs and film of the trip), and, as Nevills’s assistant, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist named Don Harris. Part way through the trip, due to tensions among expedition members, Atkinson left and was replaced by photographer Emery Kolb.

Clover and Jotter floated the Green and Colorado rivers in 43 days, cataloging the plants they found along the way. The female botanists made plant lists and collected specimens throughout the trip, although the rigors of the journey—especially lack of space and difficulty keeping specimens dry—meant that they ended up with fewer specimens than they had hoped.

They described the canyon as having five plant zones, from the moist sand along the river’s edge up to higher zones with shrubs and trees. Most of what they found were typical riparian species, with a major exception being tamarisk, a non-native species that they saw in a few locations.

Tamarisk shrub at the Grand Canyon.

Tamarisk (Tamarix L.)

They found very little snakeweed, which has since become common throughout the canyon.

Snakeweed bush in the Grand Canyon.

Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae)

The team identified five plant zones, 50+ species of desert plants, and discovered four new species: Grand Canyon claret cup with a red-purple flower, fishhook cactus with small flowers and curved spines, strawberry hedgehog cactus, and beavertail prickly pear. The cactus Clover collected formed the basis for what is now Matthaei’s desert house collection.

They published their findings six years later in a scientific journal under the title, “Floristic Studies in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River and Tributaries.”

After the successful river run, Elzada Clover spent her entire career at U-M, slowly climbing the faculty ranks to become a full professor in 1960. Over her career, she identified nearly 50 species of cacti, begonia, mosses and other plants in the United States, Guatemala and Mexico. She retired in 1967 and died 13 years later. In 2007, the University established the Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professorship in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

The cactus she collected along the Colorado River and shipped to Ann Arbor became the foundation of the desert collections at what is today’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens. In thanking Clover, the Board of Regents called the plants “her continuing monument.”

Clover and Jotters’ survey of plant life, completed on about 600 miles of river, remains the only comprehensive study of plant life in the riparian ecosystem before Glen Canyon Dam altered the landscape.

sources: mbgna.umich.edu, heritage.umich.edu, williamsnews.com, grandcanyontrust.org, wikivisually.com, plants.jstor.org

Famous for revitalizing Hopi pottery by creating a contemporary style inspired by prehistoric ceramics, this Hopi-Tewa potter's name is still known for her contribution to Southwestern pottery.

Nampeyo: The Noted Hopi Potter

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo revitalized Hopi pottery by creating a contemporary style inspired by prehistoric ceramics. Nampeyo made clay pots at a time when her people had begun using manufactured vessels, and her skill helped convert pottery-making from a utilitarian process to an art form.

Nampeyo and her pottery.

Nampeyo with one of her Sikyátki Revival vessels, ca. 1908–1910. Hopi, Arizona. Photo by Charles M. Wood. P07128
via The National Museum of the American Indian

Nampeyo, from the Hopi village of Hano on First Mesa, was born around 1860, the daughter of Quootsva of the Hopi Snake clan and White Corn of the Tewa clan. At puberty, she was given the Tewa name “Nung-beh-yong,” usually pronounced “Nahm-pay-oh” by outsiders.

She was known as one of the finest Hopi potters, crafting beautiful pieces of pottery in the traditional Old Hopi style. When she married her second husband, who was assisting at an archaeological excavation of Sikyátki near her home village, she became interested in the ancient style of Hopi pottery. Created between the 14th and 16th centuries, the ancient style of pottery was harder and less prone to cracks that the style of pottery Nampeyo’s contemporaries were producing.

Sikyatki is the name of an enormous ancient Hopi village on the east flank of First Mesa that was abandoned about 1500. The abandonment of Sikyatki is told in Hopi oral tradition as due to a dispute with Walpi, whose descendents still reside on top of First Mesa, that resulted in the destruction of Sikyatki.

Along with her husband, Nampeyo gathered pottery shards and studied the ancient designs painted on them by her ancestors, which she incorporated into her own pottery. She used ancient methods to fire and finish the pottery, producing a smoother finished surface.

“When I first began to paint, I used to go to the ancient village and pick up pieces of pottery and copy the designs,” Nampeyo told interviewers at the time. “That is how I learned to paint. But now, I just close my eyes and see designs and I paint them.”

Nampeyo was a sought-after potter by the time she was 20 years old. She married a Tewa man named Kwivioya, but the union was short-lived.

In 1878, she married Lesou of the Cedarwood clan from Walpi. She gave birth to six children from 1884 to 1900. During this time, she also produced some of her most artistic and innovative work.

Nampeyo’s Pottery Style

Nampeyo Hopi's pottery collection.

via Arizona State Museum

Sikyatki polychrome, also called yellow ware, was produced from about 1325 to 1630 at Sikyatki and two other Hopi villages. It was made with fine local clay that polished to a smooth, hard surface and represented a high watermark in known Hopi pottery prior to the turn of the 20th century.

When Nampeyo began making pottery, the predominant style was what is now referred to as Polacca polychrome. Produced with coarse clay, it required a thin layer of finer clay applied to the surface, on which to paint designs. The white surface layer, or slip, often cracked over time and was not as aesthetically pleasing as the earlier, Sikyatki style.

Seeking out specific clays and the raw materials needed for color, Nampeyo preferred to shape low, wide pots with abstract, geometric designs. She did not fill her bowls with detail, but used space as an art form along with intricate brush strokes and bold splashes of color.

Decorative elements that appear on the cookware or clothing are drawn from each tribe’s unique religious beliefs or world views. When Nampeyo first began making her pots, Hopi motifs had been diluted by the influence of Spanish, Tewa or Zuni designs, most frequently “Mera,” the rain bird. Even the clay used by the Hopi potters was inferior. Nampeyo’s brilliance was not only her superior natural gifts as an artist but her ability to recognize the importance of reclaiming the long-lost Hopi symbols. At the same time, she went beyond imitation and became the inspiration for continuing generations of Hopi potters.

Nampeyo' rare Hopi-Tewa pottery
Nampeyo' rare Hopi-Tewa pottery

via suduva.com

In 1904, the Fred Harvey Co. hired architect Mary Colter to design a building at the Grand Canyon that resembled a Hopi dwelling, three stories high with pole ladders ascending to each terrace.Native artisans were invited to Hopi House to demonstrate their crafts of weaving, basketry, jewelry, and pottery-making, and to sell their products to the public. Nampeyo and her family were the first to arrive in January 1905. For three months, Nampeyo and her daughter Annie crafted pottery and were so successful they ran out of clay. Harvey employees were sent to the Hopi reservation for more materials, as Nampeyo would only use clays from certain areas.

She stayed and lived as an artist in residence at Mary Colter’s Hopi House, selling her pottery there until 1907, when she left to exhibit her works across the U.S.

Nampeyo’s daughters — Annie, Nellie, and Fannie — all became talented potters. Together with Lesou, they assisted their mother in painting her designs, especially after she began losing her eyesight in the early 1920s. Trachoma, an infectious eye disease that results in scarring of the cornea and eventual blindness, ran rampant through the Hopi Nation. Brought on by poor sanitary conditions, lack of water and an abundance of flies, the only treatment available at the time was an antiseptic solution that temporarily halted the progression of the disease, but did not cure it.

On July 20, 1942, Nampeyo died in the red-roofed house below First Mesa. She had continued to shape her pots until about three years before her death.

Today, the extraordinary quality encouraged by Nampeyo continues, even as artists incorporate their own designs and many have moved in contemporary directions. The prevalence of the motifs Nampeyo reintroduced even in Southwestern pottery today stands to show how important she was to revitalizing Southwestern pottery.

sources: williamsnews.com, grandcanyontrust.org, tucson.com, suduva.com, statemuseum.arizona.edu, cowboysindians.com, encyclopedia.com, uapress.arizona.edu, bowers.org

The Grand Canyon National Park with its Colorado River has attracted more than six million visitors a year. But have you ever wondered, who mapped the Grand Canyon for the first time?

Barbara Washburn: The Accidental Adventurer Who Mapped The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park, preserving more than 1.2 million acres of the country’s most spectacularly scenic land, has attracted more than six million visitors a year, exerting an almost magnetic pull on hikers, rafters, explorers, and tourists from all over the world. Artists and writers are also drawn to the canyon, hoping to capture its legendary beauty and breadth. But have you ever wondered, who mapped the Grand Canyon for the first time?It was done by this forgotten female mountain climber, who spent years to map the entire canyon. If you are not familiar with her cartography story, you might have heard her historic Denali ascent instead.

Barbara Washburn, the female mountaineer who mapped the Grand Canyon.

Left to right: Barbara Washburn, Mt. McKinley National Park Supt. Frank Been, and Bradford Washburn in 1947
via National Park Service

Not only did Barbara become the first woman in the world to climb Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America, she also worked with her husband, Bradford Washburn, to map the Grand Canyon.

Barbara’s Life

Barbara Washburn

via The American Alpine Club

Born in 1914, Barbara, like most women of her generation, was brought up with the idea that her place was in the home. After graduated from Smith College at the age of 24, Barbara Polk was happily employed as the secretary of the Harvard biology department. But in the spring of 1939, Clarkie, the mailman, encouraged her to apply for a job opening at the New England Museum of Natural History, whose leadership had just been taken over by an ambitious young mountaineer named Bradford Washburn.

Bradford was a mountain climber and had already established several first ascents in Alaska. After her job interview, he said he’d call her in two weeks about the job. He called her every day for two weeks, and she took the job in March 1939. Their professional relationship became more intimate, and a year after that, he proposed to her.

After their marriage in April 1940, the couple went on a trip to Alaska. Together with six other people, the couple signed up for an expedition to ascend Mt. Bertha, which stands 10,812 feet tall. One year after that, the couple, along with their team, became the first to successfully summit 13,628-foot Mount Hayes.

In 1947, Barbara and Bradford left their three children at home to climb Mount McKinley (now called Denali). The 14,600-foot climb took 70 days. She had trained for the climb by pushing a baby carriage, she later said. After nearly two months of trekking, as they neared the top, a member of the team turned around and encouraged Barbara to be the first to reach the top. “I said, ‘Who cares a rip? I don’t care—I’m perfectly happy being number two here,’” she later recalled. She eventually agreed to take the lead, and she soon stood on the summit as the first woman to look out from North America’s highest point.

No woman followed in her footsteps for another 20 years.

Barbara and Brad were married for 67 years. They were ideal companions and partners in the field, not only in Alaska but also in such monumental projects as mapping the Grand Canyon. Late in life, Barbara started writing down sketches of her adventures, in a typescript intended only to serve as a legacy for her children. But Alaska journalist Lew Freedman borrowed the only copy of the typescript, read it overnight, and persuaded her to publish it as a memoir, The Accidental Adventurer (Epicenter Press, 2001).

On September 25, 2014, Barbara Washburn died in her home in Lexington, Massachusetts, just two months shy of her 100th birthday and seven years after her husband. With her passing, America lost one of its truly great adventurers and pioneer climbers.

Mapping The Grand Canyon

The Washburns' Map of Grand Canyon

via National Geographic Maps

In the 1970s, Barbara and her husband took on an ambitious project to map the entire Grand Canyon, the results of which were published as a supplement to National Geographic magazine in 1978.

The story of Washburn’s map, as told in the 2018 National Geographic book All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey, started when Washburn and his wife, Barbara, visited the Grand Canyon in 1969. They had come to acquire a boulder from the bottom of the canyon to display in front of Boston’s Museum of Science, where Washburn was the director. “We were astonished that no good large-scale map was available anywhere,” he recalled. So he decided to make one himself.

It took eight years of planning, fieldwork, analysis, drafting, painting, and negotiating to create his map of the Grand Canyon. Such an endeavor would be unheard of in today’s digital world.

Many of the points in their survey were extremely difficult or impossible to reach on foot, so Washburn hired helicopters to get them there. With 697 helicopter landings on obscure buttes and ledges in the 1970s, the Washburns and their assistants may have been the first people to ever set foot on some of the canyon’s most remote points.

Turning all of this fieldwork into a map would turn out to be just as laborious and twice as complicated as gathering the data. Bradford’s goal was to produce a masterpiece, which meant putting together an all-star team to make the map. “Nothing quite like this has ever been done before,” he wrote to the president of the National Geographic Society.

The mapping team, which included staff members of the National Geographic Society, conducted a photographic survey before employing a then-novel technique of flying helicopters to land on unscaled peaks. After cross-checking measurements of what Mr Washburn described as “this magnificent but desiccated and vertiginous wilderness,” the team produced a map of the Inner Canyon in 1974 and then a map of the center of the Grand Canyon in 1978.

In the end, all that work paid off exactly as the Washburns hoped: the map is exceptional, both technically and aesthetically. National Geographic produced two versions of “The Heart of the Grand Canyon” map, one at the full 33-by-34-inch size and another covering slightly less territory as a supplement to the July 1978 issue of National Geographic magazine, putting it in the hands of more than ten million readers around the world.

For this cartography achievement, the Washburn couple was awarded the 1980 Alexander Graham Bell Medal from the National Geographic Society. Eight years later in 1988, the couple also received the National Geographic Centennial award together with 15 other legends like Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Edmund Hillary.

For more details about Barbara’s life and climbing adventures, listen to her oral history from the University of Alaska’s Project Jukebox.

sources: nationalgeographic.com, adventure-journal.com, publications.americanalpineclub.org, nytimes.com, visiontimes.com, wcvb.com, outsideonline.com, nps.gov

Mary Jane Colter, the architect behind your favorite buildings in the Grand Canyon South Rim. Contact SWEETours for your next big adventure. Talk to one of our customer service agents for more info!

Mary Colter: The Architect Behind Your Favorite Buildings at the Grand Canyon South

If you’ve sipped a lemonade at Phantom Ranch, or stayed at Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim, you’re familiar with Mary Colter’s work. She was a lady ahead of her time, where she designed and supervised the construction of six of Grand Canyon National Park’s most famous buildings, all of which still stand today.

Mary Colter: The Female Architect

Mary Jane Colter, the chief designer of Grand Canyon.

via National Park Service

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was born in 1869 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and while her family lived briefly in Texas and Colorado, the Colter’s finally settled in St. Paul. She desired to pursue art as a career but couldn’t due to family opposition. It wasn’t until the death of her father that she moved toward following her dream. She was, at the time, one of the few female architects working in the U.S.—a woman in a man’s world who had to fight hard for recognition.

Mary attended the California School of Design in San Francisco, studying art and design. Few universities taught architecture, so she apprenticed with a practicing architect. This was unusual for a woman, but Mary was determined. In 1892, at the age of 23, she began a 15-year teaching career at the Mechanic Arts High School, an all-boys institution, back in St. Paul.

Through informal contacts with the Fred Harvey Company, Colter eventually landed a job as an interior designer of the Indian Building adjacent to the Santa Fe’s new Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, along the main line. As a full-time architect in the Fred Harvey Company, Mary Colter would build six buildings on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Colter was a perfectionist, who spent a lifetime advocating and defending her aesthetic vision in a largely male-dominated field. In 1948, at the age of 79, Colter officially retired from the Fred Harvey Company. On January 8, 1958, at the age of 88, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter died.

Mary Colter’s Buildings

At the time, American architecture followed the fashions of Europe, but Mary preferred to let her conceptions grow from the land, paying homage to the Native Americans who inhabited the area. Her creative free-form buildings at Grand Canyon took direct inspiration from the landscape and served as part of the basis of the developing artistic aesthetic for appropriate development in areas that became national parks. Her designs include Hermit’s RestLookout StudioBright Angel LodgeHopi House and the Watchtower, along with Phantom Ranch, situated at the bottom of the canyon.

Located on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, these buildings* highlight the ingenuity of Colter, chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 to 1948.

*As a group, these buildings were designated a National Historic Landmark District on May 28, 1987.

1. Hopi House (1904)

Hopi House postcard. Mary Colter's Hopi House.
When the Fred Harvey Company noticed that native American craftspeople were doing a booming trade selling their arts and crafts at railroad stops, they began planning Hopi House, a dedicated marketplace for native American wares on the South Rim.

Located next to El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House is a prime example of Colter’s unique site-specific style. The building was built by Hopi craftsmen and constructed using local materials and salvaged items, such as Civil War-era Western Union telegraph poles and rails.

For many Grand Canyon visitors, Hopi House was their first introduction to Hopi and Native American culture, and to this day, Hopi House still operates as a native American gift shop.

2. Hermit’s Rest (1914)

Hermit's Rest postcard. Mary Colter's Hermit's Rest.
Hermit’s Rest was built in 1914 as a rest area for tourists travelling on coaches operated by (you guessed it!) the Fred Harvey Company on their way to what was once Hermit Camp.

This simple log-and-stone building was designed to look like a rustic getaway that Louis Boucher, a trail guide and infamous “hermit” who once lived in the area, would have built. With this in mind, Mary Colter actually ordered the fireplace to be intentionally streaked with soot to add an aged effect.

Hermit’s Rest is located at the western end of Hermit Road and is the western terminus of the Rim Trail.

3. Lookout Studio (1914)

Lookout Studio postcard. Mary Colter's Lookout Studio.
Situated just west of Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio is one of the most prominent examples of Mary Colter’s unique style.

Colter’s design for Lookout Studio draws heavily from its natural surroundings: the native stone exterior and multi-level design blend in seamlessly with the layers and edge of the Grand Canyon, while it’s asymmetrical roofline mimics the Canyon’s natural shape to create the illusion that the Studio is an extension of the Canyon’s steadfast stone walls.

Today, Lookout Studio offers multiple viewing platforms and a gift shop where Grand Canyon visitors can pick up a memento of their adventure.

4. Phantom Ranch (1922)

Phantom Ranch postcard. Mary Colter's Phantom Ranch.
Mary Colter’s use of on-site fieldstone and rough-hewn wood was largely a product of necessity based on the Ranch’s remote location, but the use of native materials to construct National Park Service Structures soon became the default for NPS and Civilian Conservation Corps buildings. In fact, Mary Colter’s design for Phantom Ranch influenced an entire genre of “parkitecture”, often referred to as “National Park Service Rustic”.

5. Desert View Watchtower (1932)

Desert View Watchtower postcard. Mary Colter's Desert View Watchtower.
Considered by many to be Mary Colter’s Grand Canyon masterpiece, this 70-foot tall tower is located near the east entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park, about 20 miles outside of the Grand Canyon Village.

Modeled after ancient Puebloan watchtowers found throughout the Four Corners region, Desert View Watchtower’s concrete foundation and steel structure is covered in intentionally-aged native stone. The Watchtower’s interior is adorned with Native American motifs, including murals and paintings by Hopi artist Frank Kabotie, as well as petroglyphs from the Hopi reservation approximately 100 more miles east.

6. Bright Angel Lodge (1935)

Bright Angel Lodge postcard. Mary Colter's Bright Angel Lodge.
Bright Angel Lodge was built to provide tourists with affordable accommodation on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Like Mary Colter’s other buildings, the design for Bright Angel Lodge was inspired by local native architecture—in this case, the influence of early pioneer buildings can be seen in the welcoming porch and pitched roof.

Mary Colter also designed the many cabins that surround the lodge. Her eclectic approach to sourcing materials for these cabins mimics the effect and appearance of a diverse settlement built over time.

The cornerstone of Bright Angel Lodge is its fireplace. Colter’s design features native stone (hauled out of the Canyon by mule) arranged from floor to ceiling in the same order as the geologic strata you’ll see as you descend into the Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.

sources: cowboykisses.blogspot.com, grandcanyontrust.org, westernoutdoortimes.com, latimes.com, nps.gov, canyontours.com