Each year, Women’s History Month offers an important opportunity for us to shine a light on women who have built, shaped and improved upon our nation. Let's take a moment to celebrate some of the female role models who are shaping our future at the Department of the Interior.
Gale Norton was the first female Secretary of the Interior. Her inspiration for a career in conservation started with loving the mountains. After being immersed in nature and the outdoors in Colorado as a child, she became the state’s Attorney General. Her life in politics eventually led her to serving as Interior Secretary from 2001-2006. During her tenure, she increased funding for conservation partnerships and promoted cooperative conservation.
A social worker born on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, Ada E. Deer welcomed the opportunity to become the first woman to oversee Indian Affairs in 1993. As Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, she reportedly said she was turning the Bureau of Indian Affairs “upside down and shaking it.” With a strong focus on the rights of American Indians, youth and women, she successfully fought for federal recognition for American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages. In 2010, the National Association of Social Workers recognized her for her work and advocacy on behalf of American Indians. She is an active advocate for her Tribe and all Native Americans.
Like other women leaders at Interior, Kathleen Burton Clarke’s career began in her home state. A native of Utah, Clarke served Congressman James V. Hansen and was the Executive Director and Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. From 2001 to 2006, she served as the first female director of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the largest acreage of public land at Interior.
Fran Mainella developed an early love for parks and recreation in her youth when she served as summer playground counselor in Connecticut. After more than 30 years in the park management and recreation field – including director of the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks – she became the head of Interior’s National Park Service in 2001. Mainella promoted partnerships and volunteerism supporting the parks.
In July 1997, Kathy Karpan became the first U.S. Senate-confirmed Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Previously, Karpan served as the Director of the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Secretary of State. The daughter of a coal miner, Karpan was tasked with working cooperatively with coal-producing states to ensure coal mining was conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner and that the effects of past mining activities were mitigated through the reclamation of abandoned mines. Karpan served as Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for 2 ½ years, after which she served as Interior’s Principal Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
Mollie Beattie’s love of nature as child came from her grandmother, who sheltered injured animals in Vermont. Long before she had heard of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System, Beattie created “refuges” in her home and yard for small animals. As USFWS director from 1993 to her death in 1996, she championed endangered species, including the reintroduction of the gray wolf into Yellowstone. Congress named a wilderness area in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in her honor.