The California Alpine Club Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of The Women’s Dipsea Hike
April 21, 1918 – April 21, 2018
100 years ago California Alpine Club (CAC) members were among the trailblazing women who participated in the first Dipsea Women’s Hike on April 21st, 1918. These pioneering women traded their skirts for breeches, bucking public opinion and local laws that banned women from wearing pants, calling it “unwomanly” behavior. Through these brave acts of rebellion and events like the first Dipsea Women’s Hike, they eventually won the support and admiration of their critics.
Caroline J. Waldear, CAC member at the time, recalls:
“Once on a hike to Willow Camp via the Dipsea Trail, Al Pinther was my partner. Coming back he wanted to take a shortcut, but the bank was too slippery and steep, and I just couldn’t make it. Undaunted, Al took off his belt and buckled it around my waist and started to pull me up, with cheers from the onlookers. When almost to the top, a gust of wind caught my skirts, to the confusion and embarrassment of us all. We must have looked very funny for we were teased about it for a long time, but to us girls it was very humiliating.
Similar embarrassing experiences had happened to the other girls, so we finally decided something had to be done about wearing more comfortable attire, so unknown to the boys, we voted to wear breeches and boots, as they were called, in spite of the fact that they were outlawed in San Francisco with a heavy fine for wearing them. Mill Valley also frowned upon them, saying so through their news media, but took no action, so we hired a room in Mill Valley, changed into our hiking gear and timidly joined the boys.
To say they were surprised and upset is putting it mildly. They were so angry and disgusted with our unwomanly behavior, they wouldn’t walk or talk with us, being careful to keep their distance. However, we were not dismayed. Rejoicing over our newfound freedom captured our minds, and we made the most of it. Arriving at Camp we took pictures of ourselves in our first breeches, all standing in a row but not brave enough to face the camera. Our joy was so infectious, the boys finally relented, admitted we didn’t look so bad and said perhaps our cause was justified afterall, since it did solve many problems. Becoming enthusiastic, they went a step further by urging us to face the camera and show the world who were the first liberators of the skirt.
Once again peace was restored, our happy family reconciled, and another step was taken toward woman’s emancipation. The editor of the Call-Bulletin had this to say on July 4, 1920 regarding the wearing of “breeches”:
“Breeches are sensible. Do not listen to critics. Fancy beautiful girls in gingham setting out for Willow Camp in soft dress shoes, in vogue at this time! No matter how the citizens of Mill Valley classify the hikers, it depends on their behavior and they will gradually accept them.”
Mr. William Kent, whose husband gave Muir Woods to the hikers, came forward in our favour of pants, saying “I am going to adopt them myself, as I find them safe and comfortable.” It wasn’t long after that, when it was the accepted hiking gear, that the ban was lifted in San Francisco and elsewhere.