In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we reflect on the life and legacy of our fearless founder, Liz Putnam. As a 20-year-old student at Vassar College in 1953, she outlined the idea for the SCA in her senior thesis.

Modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, which enlisted young men to improve America’s public lands in the 1930s-1940s, her vision for the SCA was for anyone, regardless of gender, interested in protecting public lands to join a movement. Her idea became reality in 1957 when the original SCA volunteers set off to work at Grand Teton (Wyoming) and Olympic (Washington) National Parks.

“I was brought up to believe that land is a trust and that we are all responsible for taking care of this earth. I was also taught that life itself is a privilege and that we must always give something back,” she said. “As my father said, ‘If something needs to be done, pitch in and help out.’ I believe we all can make a positive difference with our lives.”

In honor of her countless contributions to the environment and the conservation workforce, Liz Putnam has received several awards, including the President’s Volunteer Action Award from President Ronald Regan, the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Barack Obama, making her the first conservationist to receive the prestigious honor, The Corps Network’s Legacy Achievement Award and The Wilderness Society’s Robert Marshall Award.

The SCA would also go on to influence the creation of several outdoor initiatives, including the Youth Conservation Corps (1971) and the National Park Service’s Volunteers in Parks program (1972).

Since our founding, the SCA has provided more than 100,000 young people with opportunities to preserve and protect the planet through service projects at national parks, state forests and community green spaces across the country.

With her birthday just around the corner on April 3, we salute this amazing woman who blazed a trail of conservation work and environmental stewardship led by young nationwide. A mission and vision we will continue to champion for generations to come.