San Francisco Bay is the most historically consequential estuary on the Pacific coast of the Western Hemisphere. From the California gold rush through the mid-twentieth century, the infilling and polluting of the bay had gone on without interruption until three University of California, Berkeley, faculty/administrator wives stepped out of their comfort zones and acted. Catherine (“Kay”) Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick spearheaded what became a historic and ongoing effort to save the bay they loved. At the outset, they saw themselves neither as feminists nor as environmentalists, and certainly did not expect to be newsmakers. But the campaign they launched in the early 1960s changed the women in significant ways and helped fuel California’s rise to a leadership role in American environmentalism. Moreover, the Save the Bay movement they launched led to similar campaigns on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States and to international recognition of their successes. Their efforts and achievements are perhaps best understood within the historical context of an evolving and greening California Dream of a better and more just life for all.

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