Pauline Mead Patraw
Established on February 26 in 1919 the Grand Canyon National Park inspired botany student Pauline Mead Patraw on her first visit just a few years later in 1927. As part of a group of students on a summer long field trip to the west they finished the trip along the north rim of the canyon where her professor asked a question that seemed just right for the subject of her master’s thesis. After graduating she was offered either a trip to Europe or a trip to the Grand Canyon to do her research.
At the time most women in her position would have selected to travel Europe, Patraw on the other hand spent the next two summers living at the canyon completing her study. In addition to answer her professors first question she decided that she would do a complete botanical study of an area of the North Rim called the Kaibab plateau. This study was not only the first of the area but has served as the basis for all further studies of the 350 square-mile plateau.
After she graduated she desired to stay at the park and applied to be a ranger-naturalist with the Forest service was told that they didn’t hire women. She didn’t give up and instead applied to work for the National Park Service at the South Rim where she was hired as the first woman in this role at the Grand Canyon and was sworn in August 1930.
She absolutely loved her work as the grand canyon where she gave tours, campfire lectures in the evening, and did an elaborate experiment to determine which types of wild flowers could be planted in beds at the canyon. In May 1931 she married and stopped working for the park service but continued to study botany and publish articles.
Patraw moved to various national parks with her family and in 1947 while in Santa Fe, New Mexico she began writing Flowers of the Southwest Mesas which was published in 1952 and sold close to 65 thousand copies in six printings.
Written by Angela Goad