Hallie Morse Daggett

Hallie Morse Daggett

(1878-1964)

DJ Name: DJ Dag Nab It

Word to yo motha — today is Earth Day! To celebrate our collective matriarch, we decided to learn about a real-life Lorax, a woman who worked tirelessly to save the forests even when her own country wouldn’t allow her to vote or open up her own bank account. “I speak for the trees,” Hallie Morse Daggett said, well before the Lorax uttered those words. Specifically, Hallie was the first woman hired by the United States Forest Service to serve as a fire lookout. While she surveyed lands in northern California, she queued up these fire tunes that inspired Sean Kingston to say, decades later, “Somebody call 911! Shawty fire burning on the dance floor, whoa.”

Anyway, here’s the link to her playlist:

Hallie Morse Daggett was born on December 19, 1878, to John and Alice Daggett, who were pioneers. John was a successful miner and went on to serve as California’s lieutenant governor from 1883 to 1887. He bought in and out of Black Bear Mine and the Calico Silver Mine throughout the mid-1800s, and the area surrounding the latter site in San Bernardino County is now named Daggett in his honor. A Democrat, he was elected to the State Assembly in 1858 before moving up the political ladder to become Lt. Gov. Daggy Daddy. That’s what he was called, we hear. In 1893, he was nominated by President Grover Cleveland to serve as superintendent of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. 

During his minting years, he had 24 dimes created for some bankers who were visiting the mint. He gave 21 of those dimes away to the bankers, and then pocketed the last three for his daughter, Hallie. He told her not to use them and when she was old like him, she should sell them for a pretty penny. Or a pretty dime, whatever. Anyway, Hallie got a little sugar craving on her way home with her minty fresh dimes, and used one of them to buy herself an ice cream. Way later in life, she sold her final two dimes to a California coin dealer named Earl Parker, who sold one of those dimes in 2007 for nearly $2 million!! Are you kidding!?!! Give Emmy and Camille each a dime pleaseeee, many people say they are dimes, just saying. 

OK, back to Hallie, although turns out her papa probably could’ve gotten his own Historic Shuffle. Hallie grew up near the mines that her dad managed wayyy up in the northern boonies of California (not near the mines of fellow shuffler, Nellie Ca$hman). Her fam had that good, good, mining minting money, and Hallie grew up well educated in San Francisco (which is about a six hour drive from Black Bear Mine where her family home was located). Perhaps because of these rustic early years, during which she learned how to hunt, fish and trap animals, Hallie felt drawn back to the mountains and forests and said bye bye bye to her San Fran life. 

After the Great Fire of 1910, AKA the Devil’s Broom Fire, which destroyed three million acres across Montana, Idaho and parts of Washington, the U.S. Forest Service thought it wise to create a fire lookout job position. Lookout stations would be situated all over the country, complete with cabins atop perches with 360-degree #views, where lookouts would stay and watch over the land to make sure no more big pesky fires broke out. “Only you can prevent wildfires,” said Smokey the Bear, but the Forest Service didn’t trust the world or people to not start a blaze from time to time.

Three years after the position was created, Hallie applied to be a lookout. The Forest Service had hired women in the past to do clerical work, but never before had it employed a lady to go out in the field and get her hands dirty. But Hallie knew she was a dame who could not be tamed. Her job app was so passionate and sincere that the dudes in charge had no choice but to recognize that she was the one for the job. The thought of a woman applying to be a lookout knocked the wind out of the hiring team. Literally, because they wrote: 

The novelty of the proposition which has been unloaded upon me, and which I am now endeavoring to pass up to you, may perhaps take your breath away, and I hope your heart is strong enough to stand the shock. It is this: One of the most untiring and enthusiastic applicants which I have for the position is Miss Hallie Morse Daggett. 

Dramatic much? Hallie knew every river, nook and cranny of those NoCal boonies, and so the Forest Service sent her up to Eddy’s Gulch Lookout Station that was positioned atop Klamath Peak in the summer of 1913. Being a lookout meant she had to haul all her supplies up to the station by herself, sometimes with a pack mule to give her aching feet a rest. Fellow forest fire fighters who were male doubted that she would last more than a few days, but Hallie immediately extinguished their doubts. That first lookout szn, she said she spotted 40 forest fires! Luckily, only five acres burned. She spent 15 summers up at Eddy’s Gulch, combating loneliness, violent storms and wild beasts. 

“Miss Daggett not only eagerly longed for the station but secured it after considerable exertion and now she declares that she enjoyed the life and was intensely interested in the work she had to do,” American Forestry magazine said about her in an article from 1914. Hallie was a trailblazer whose work as a “lady lookout,” which was what women in the profession came to be called, inspired more women to take on the fire fight. Over the years as men went off to war, more and more women climbed to the top of the lookout towers. Some filled in for their husbands while others pursued the path because they valued the life of solitude that came with manning a tower to tower over the forests and report any sort of blaze.

Daggett did eventually climb down from her solitary watchtower after many years on the job fueled by, “the determination to make good,” as she described her job and she returned to civilization. Hallie journeyed back to Etna, California where the city looked out for her for the rest of her life and built her her own cabin as a recognition of her years of service looking out for them AKA keepin’ her eyes peeled for smoke and flames. She lived in this house, surrounded by community and right next door to her sister, until she passed away in 1964. The unique work of Hallie Morse Daggett challenged the norm when it came to a woman’s place of work, and she spent those 15 fire szns calling her own shots in the watchtower as she protected our Mother Earth and, while doing so, paved the way for many a lady lookout to follow in her footsteps.

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