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.