Leading Ladies

by | History, October 2019

Iconic Women of Adirondack History

Anne LaBastille

1933-2011

Anne LaBastille came to Big Moose Lake as a young woman, where she fell in love with the owner of a lakeside lodge. But her enduring love affair was with the Adirondacks, its mountains, lakes and creatures. With a PhD in wildlife ecology from Cornell University, she wrote about white-tailed deer, bobcats, birds and opossums. The autobiography that earned her millions of fans across the globe was Woodswoman, chronicling her solitary life at Twitchell Lake in the 1970s. She received numerous international awards and honorary degrees; in her role as an Adirondack Park Agency commissioner, she consistently supported wilderness preservation.

Barbara McMartin

1931-2005

Barbara McMartin-—a fixture at Canada Lake—had a PhD in math, but she was also a tireless bushwhacker, hiker and historian. She wrote more than two dozen books about the park, including the popular Discover the Adirondacks guides as well as The Great Forest of the Adirondacks (1994) and The Privately Owned Adirondacks (2004). Her knowledge of ecology, the backcountry and politics made her a valuable contributor to state policy initiatives for wilderness preservation and recreational use.

Grace Hudowalski

1906-2004

Raised in Minerva and deeply passionate about the surrounding mountains, Grace Hudowalski was the first woman to climb all 46 peaks above 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks, as well as the first president of the Adirondack 46ers and its longtime historian. She spent decades writing encouraging responses to hikers who hoped to follow in her footsteps, back when aspiring 46ers were tasked with recording accounts of their ascents. After her death, East Dix was renamed Grace Peak.

Inez Milholland

1886-1916

As a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Inez Milholland carried on her family’s tradition of fiery political activism—her father, John, was an ardent supporter of racial justice and the first treasurer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Tragically, she died at the age of 30 while on a nationwide tour for women’s rights, four years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was buried at the Lewis Cemetery, near her family’s Champlain Valley farm, Meadowmount, now a world-class summer music school.

Orra A. Phelps

1895-1986

Orra A. Phelps was a physician—she once made a late-night house call to a backcountry lean-to, stitching up a camper who had slashed his ankle with an ax—as well as a naturalist, guidebook editor, teacher and explorer. In 1928 Phelps trekked 100 miles through the heart of the Adirondacks, keeping a record of the diverse plant life along the way. She became the Adirondack Mountain Club’s onsite ranger/naturalist in the 1960s and established a museum and interpretive trail at Heart Lake.

Paulina Brandreth

1885-1946

As a passionate hunter and angler on her family’s 12,500-acre Hamilton County estate, Paulina Brandreth made her name writing articles for publications such as Field and Stream and books about the sporting life, including Trails of Enchantment (1930). Well, not quite her name—she was published under the pseudonym Paul Brandreth, and often preferred to dress in men’s clothing.

Sabrina Jones began her career with the activist art collective Carnival Knowledge and alternative comics World War 3 Illustrated and Girltalk. She is the author of Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling (with Marc Mauer) and Our Lady of Birth Control: A Cartoonist’s Encounter with Margaret Sanger. She splits her time between Ballston Spa and Brooklyn.


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