With a career in show biz that has spanned nearly 70 years, you’d think Betty White’s aspirations were always to be an actress. But as she was growing up, camping in the High Sierra and visiting Yellowstone National Park with her family, she longed to be a forest ranger -- a role that was not available to women at the time.
White, 88, said in an interview with ABC News, early treks into the wilderness cemented her desire to work with animals and one day to become a forest ranger. "But back then, girls were not allowed to become forest rangers," she said in the interview.
Recently, that lifelong dream was fulfilled as she was made an honorary member of the Forest Service at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where she was presented with a badge and a ranger's Stetson hat, which she wore during the ceremony
In her acceptance speech, ABC News reported White saying of her parents, “They would be more proud of this than of any other award I have won.” That’s saying a lot for a woman who has received 20 Emmy nominations and won seven during her career, which has included roles on “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
"Wilderness is harder and harder to find these days on this beautiful planet, and we're abusing our planet to the point of almost no return," White said in the ABC News interview. "In my heart I've been a forest ranger all my life, but now I'm official."
The Forest Service began in 1905, but very few women were employed during the early years. The first woman to serve as a fire lookout was Hallie Daggett, who started work at Eddy's Gulch Lookout Station in California's Klamath National Forest in 1913. Today, the Forest Service reports, women make up 38 percent of the Forest Service's workforce.