National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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Isabelle Story
1888-1970


                                          by Mary Marucca

Isabelle Story


Isabelle Story was well named. A woman of remarkable achievement when women occupied the sidelines more often than the playing field, she stood shoulder to shoulder with Horace Albright and other NPS giants during the founding years. Story's independent spirit and skills as a writer made her invaluable to an agency struggling for identity. From her typewriter came some of the earliest prose connected with federal administration of the parks. Her industry transcended simple employment. It came to define her. It became her purpose for being at a time when employees sought a sense of focus and altruistic absorption. And she accomplished it through the power and force of her words.

Story entered federal employment in 1910 with the Patent Office. In 1911 she transferred to the Geological Survey, from which agency she came to the National Park Service in 1916. In 1917 Horace Albright, appointed acting director of the National Park Service during Mather's illness, called on Isabelle Story to be his secretary. In those days, tremendous work to be done and few hands to do it meant that everyone did everything no matter what hour of the day or night. So, at age 28, with a business college education and writing experience, Isabelle Story turned a new page. She collaborated with Albright on the NPS Annual Reports of 1917, 1918, and 1919. When Albright went to Yellowstone as superintendent in 1919, he called again on Isabelle Story. She joined him to complete the 1919 Annual Report as well as the Budget Report for Congress.

Story wrote press releases and articles promoting the parks and monuments. Encouraged to travel during the 1920s, she accumulated knowledge of the Service that aided her editing of NPS publications. In spite of increasing responsibilities, Story executed all assignments with the energy and grace characteristic of the renaissance spirits of that remarkable time. Isabelle Story's whirlwind with the National Park Service continued until retirement in 1954. She was "editor-in-chief" during the Service's phases of professional development and of her own. For a while, she was its only writer, and hours were spent developing information publications distributed to park visitors. Her work increased when the park system was enlarged under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and 50 employees were added to her staff. Her office produced radio scripts, and Story is personally credited as one of the first advocates of a national parks magazine.

How does one sum up a life spent in service to an idea? In the words of Horace Albright, Isabelle Story was attractive, laughing, friendly, competent, a top executive. She never married: the untimely death of Southwest Monuments Superintendent Frank Pinkley spelled an end to that possible outcome. Isabelle Story was a strong voice for the national park system. It was a story she told well, contributing much to the way the public perceived the parks.


From National Park Service: The First 75 Years




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