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.
“Forces of Nature”: The Berkeley Trio That Led Save the Bay and Greened the California Dream
THOMAS J. OSBORNE taught history at Santa Ana College, Chapman University, and the University of Hawai’i (Manoa Campus). He earned his PhD in history at Claremont Graduate School. In addition to publishing numerous academic journal articles and book reviews, he is writing his fifth book, an account of California’s rise as an environmental leader. He has won fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In civic affairs, he chaired a work group for the City of Laguna Beach that wrote the city’s Climate Protection Action Plan and he co-leads, with his wife, Ginger, the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. For this leadership, he won his city’s Environmental Achievement Award and was persuaded to become the environmental columnist for the Laguna Beach Independent newspaper.
Thomas J. Osborne; “Forces of Nature”: The Berkeley Trio That Led Save the Bay and Greened the California Dream. California History 1 May 2023; 100 (2): 62–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2023.100.2.62
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