Park Ranger Wives

I am doing some research for an upcoming piece that will appear next week at Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture when I found a letter written in 1967 by a group of park ranger wives.  What amazes me, is that the same letter could be written 45 years later.  When will they start filming a show called “Park Ranger Wives?”

In February 1967 the park superintendents in the Southwest Region held their yearly conference in Tucson, Arizona. The attending wives developed a nationally distributed “National Park Service Wives and Women Employees Handbook” that included the following guidance:

“You are married to a very special man, or you would not be reading this letter. The Park Service challenges men who are intelligent, able to communicate and get along with people, and who also have a special love for our USA wonderlands, the National Park areas. As the wife of such a man, you are also challenged!”

“Most men choose the Park Service as a career because of a special interest or skill. They quickly become involved in their work. If you don’t want to be left out, share his interests, read everything you can get your hands on that pertains to his field of work, listen to him.”

“Just one word of caution. The job is his, not yours. Don’t intrude into official duties.”

“Whatever your husband’s position, how he looks on the job is important. . . As a Park Service wife, it is your responsibility to see that his clothes are ready when needed, clean and neatly pressed. He will appreciate this more than you’ll ever know.”

“A park community differs from most communities because the people not only must live together, they also work closely together. It is not fair for wives to burden husbands with complaints about a neighbor when he has to work with the same man all day. Practice patience and understanding and try not to let coffee chats degenerate into gossip sessions or comparisons of advancement and careers.”

“Wives, sometimes more than husbands, color the community’s impression of the NPS. There may be a place where you will have to live down or make up for mistakes of wives who’ve gone before you. This isn’t easily done. Be yourself, be honest, and try very hard to avoid self-centeredness.”

“There will come times when you will want to conk your beloved on his pointed little head for ever getting you into this NPS way of life! You will wonder if he’ll ever come home in time for dinner, just once even, but fire season, ski patrol, or rains which bog down unwary visitor’s cars shall pass, and you’ll have plenty of time to subdue and arrange your feelings and laugh at it together.”

[photo and letter were retrieved at:

This entry was published on 08/02/2012 at 2:18 pm. It’s filed under gates of the arctic national park: bettles, alaska and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
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