Yosemite's Unsung Hero - Jessie Benton Fremont

In 2012, Craig first broke the story in Sierra Heritage Magazine on Jessie Benton Fremont, who led the successful effort to save Yosemite Valley and what became the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. It was followed by Congress, The National Parks Promotions Council and others honoring Jessie Benton Fremont. Here are excerpts: From a speech by Hon. Jeff Denham of California before Congress on March 20, 2012: "Mr. Speaker, I rise today during Women's History Month to honor the life and legacy of Jessie, who helped inspire and lead efforts to preserve and protect what is now a very significant part of Yosemite National Park.... Please join me in honoring Jessie for her unwavering leadership and activism to preserve the beautiful grandeur of Yosemite Valley for generations to come. Her legacy serves as an example of excellence and her accomplishments and contributions to Yosemite will never be forgotten."

From the National Parks Promotion Council's March 21, 2012 newsletter: "Often the influence of women in parks has been overlooked.... Historian Craig MacDonald asked recently, 'If not for what she did behind the scene, would there have been a Yosemite National Park today, would John Muir have been drawn to the valley because of the attention given to it by its protection, would there even have been the foundation necessary to lead to establishing national parks?'"

Craig spoke to the news media, fellow historians and dozens of groups about the need to get Jessie properly recognized. Thousands signed petitions to their congressional reps urging a Bill's passage. As a result, on July 14, 2012, the House of Representatives unanimously approved HR1192, a bill introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R) and co-sponsored by Rep. Janice Hahn (D) to rename a mountain at Yosemite in honor of Jessie's efforts, which were lauded in an editorial by The Sacramento Bee, in blogs by The Sierra Club and many others. (It was sent to the Senate where no action was taken and no reasons given.)

Galen Clark, Yosemite's first Official Guardian, who John Muir called "the greatest mountaineer I ever knew," said that Yosemite would not have been saved if it hadn't been for the efforts of Jessie. Victor Knox, Associate Director of the National Park Service, testified in Congress on Feb. 26, 2014 that "Jessie was an important figure in the advocacy for & the establishment of the Yosemite Grant." The California State Parks website said, "Jessie's vital influence helped conserve one of California's greatest treasures--Yosemite. Her friends and followers became infected with her passion to preserve Yosemite. Her perseverance and vision contributed to the creation of the Yosemite Grant...which inspired John Muir to lobby for National Parks." Bob Evans, Editor in Chief of Sierra Heritage Magazine wrote, "It's high time Jessie is recognized for her foresight and action in the first effort to save Yosemite so we can enjoy it today." Kris Payne, President of the El Dorado County History Society wrote Congress that "Jessie made many contributions, including her personal and political connections to protect Yosemite Valley...." John Poimiroo, former California State Tourism Director, wrote in The Mountain Democrat, how Jessie advanced the idea to save Yosemite before it was destroyed. Former USC Professor Jack Nilles wrote that "Jessie's own history shows it's possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together in the national interest. She deserves recognition for saving Yosemite now!" John Bicknell wrote in CQ Roll Call on March 10, 2014: "Jessie's contributions to Yosemite & The West, go far beyond fundraising and advocacy. They go to the heart of how we understand and appreciate the natural world, which is worth a mountain being named in her honor."

We're still working to get Jessie her due. Yosemite needs to honor her memory by naming a mountain, river, meadow, path, tree or park entry station after her. She was the thread that unselfishly wove the preservation effort, that brought people together, that did everything possible to make it happen, without ever seeking any type of credit. Please help our efforts any way you can to gain Jessie the proper recognition she deserves at Yosemite. Also, please email me any results so we can post them. Many Thanks!

     
 
 
 

Yosemite's Unsung Hero


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