Courageous women in San Francisco Bay

Overlooking San Francisco Bay, Jill Zwicky.

Every morning, the staff of Save The Bay pass a photo of founders Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick, as we enter the office. It is a reminder of our organization’s history, the gift they gave the broader Bay Area community by preventing bay fill, and a reminder for our staff of the duty they have to continue this legacy of protecting and restoring our Bay. There is a quote from Sylvia McLaughlin below the photo, the first part of which reads, “It was unusual to be concerned with the environment in those days, but our beautiful bay was in trouble…” It is almost comical to think this was the mainstream attitude towards the environment in 1961, a nonchalant way of thinking that nature will always be there. Still, the famous picnic scene from the first season of Mad Men when Don and Betty throw their trash onto the ground before they drive off captures those feelings succinctly.

The second half of the quote continues, “…so we galvanized the community to take action to protect it.” The powerful women who founded Save The Bay understood the mounting threats facing our waters, and recognized that the only effective means to protect and restore our home would be as a collective community. Over our near 60-year history, this mentality has lead Save The Bay to continue organizing our local community against threats like water pollution and encouraging them to support wetland restoration funding.

Today we continue our founders’ legacy through our wetland restoration to protect Bay communities from increasing sea-level rise, advocating for Bay Smart:Climate Smart policies, and inspiring the next generation of environmental advocates through our volunteer and education programs. That’s why we are proud to collaborate with the member organizations of Restore America’s Estuaries to take on these challenges.

Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis, who has worked with RAE for over 20 years, shares this sentiment. “Restore America’s Estuaries multiplies the power and influence of Save The Bay and our colleagues around the country by uniting us. Together we’ve advanced federal action and improved each other’s’ local practices. The Alliance members are stronger and more effective from decades of collaboration.” The collaboration among RAE’s 10 members will be critical as we work to restore our estuary habitats for both humans and wildlife, and will protect the millions of Americans in shoreline communities. Just like Save The Bay founders galvanized the San Francisco community to take action, Restore America’s Estuary’s is doing just that on a scale for a national impact.

David Coy is a communications specialist with Save The Bay.

Cover photo shows Save The Bay’s founders: Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick.