At Home in the World


At Home in the World

California Women and the Postwar Environmental Movement

Kathleen A. Cairns

216 pages
5 photographs, index


May 2021


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2021


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2021


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

From the beginning of California’s statehood, adventurers, scientists, and writers reveled in its majestic landscape. Some were women, though few garnered attention or invitations to join the Sierra Club, the organization created in 1892 to preserve wilderness. Over the next sixty years the Sierra Club and other groups gained prestige and members—including an increasing number of women. But these organizations were not equipped to confront the massive growth of industry that overtook postwar California. This era needed a new approach, and it came from an unlikely source: white, middle-class housewives with no experience in politics. These women successfully battled smog, nuclear power plants, piles of garbage in the San Francisco Bay, and over-building in the Santa Monica Mountains.

In At Home in the World Cairns shows how women were at the center of a broader and more inclusive environmental movement that looked beyond wilderness to focus on people’s daily life. These women challenged the approach long promoted by establishment groups and laid the foundation for the modern environmental movement.

Author Bio

Kathleen A. Cairns is a retired lecturer in history and women’s studies at California Polytechnic University–San Luis Obispo. She is the author of The Enigma Woman: The Death Sentence of Nellie May Madison (Nebraska, 2007) and The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts (Nebraska, 2016), among other books.


"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. . . . I strongly recommend At Home in the World for scholars, public officials, journalists, students, and environmentalists alike. This is a first-rate book."—Thomas J. Osborne, California History

"At Home in the World is a lean and accessible book that would work well in the undergraduate classroom in courses on California history and American environmental history."—Michael Gunther, H-Environment

“Kathleen Cairns brings the history of environmental awakening in California to light with stories of women who stood up against seemingly impossible odds. Their achievements are our heritage. At a time when Earth is under siege, the stories and examples of activism in At Home in the World offer us a path forward.”—Bette Korber, prize-winning theoretical biologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and passionate advocate of wild rivers

“Kathleen Cairns engagingly reveals how women, frequently without conventional political power, nevertheless proved to be successful activists, effectively limiting and sometimes even eliminating postwar efforts to further exploit and damage California’s natural resources. Cairns also addresses the vitally important roles of race and class as well as gender in her many engaging stories of women who strove to protect California’s environment.”—Nancy C. Unger, author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. “Feminine Warriors”: California Women and the Environment
2. Saving the San Francisco Bay
3. The Dune Lady: Kathleen Goddard Jones
4. Saving the Santa Monica Mountains
5. Environmental Justice: The Politics of Survival

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