This fresh, meticulously researched monograph fits into the ever-growing genre of works on American environmental history, under the subcategories of state studies and women activists. Widely perceived as a national leader in environmentalism, California’s contribution to that movement is illuminated in this volume by useful information not found in any other single study.
Cairns’s thesis is that women in California and nationwide in the 1950s expanded male-dominated wilderness and natural resources conservation efforts into a much broader range of concerns comprising modern environmentalism. In Cairns’s words:
By the 1950s…new issues and problems had emerged, most attributable to the massive…growth industry that exploded…after WW II.…[U]tility companies promoted nuclear power plants.…Mired in the past, many male leaders seemed paralyzed, uncertain how to confront the myriad challenges.…Women…forge[d] a new kind of grassroots community activism [becoming]…midwives of modern environmentalism” (3).
This argument is interesting and significant. But is it true? With one quibble, I...