Women We Admire Anne LaBastille

Women We Admire: “Woodswoman” and Trailblazer Anne LaBastille

I have long admired Anne LaBastille. She was born a trailblazer. I’m not sure if she intended to be, and that makes her life that much more amazing to me. She followed her passion, which was the environment and the outdoors.

You see, Anne wrote the book, “Woodswoman,” which chronicled her life and adventures building and then living in a cabin in a remote part of the Adirondacks (the gorgeous mountains in NY State). I was captivated by this woman who felt comfortable in the outdoors, built her own home, lived off grid before that term was coined, advocated to preserve our environment, and then wrote about it.

She lived her life exactly as she dreamed it with no apologies.

Everything she did, from her environmental work to building her log cabin, was on her terms. I loved her courage, her vision, and the “make it happen” persona she seemed to embody. I’m drawn to LaBastille because she inspires me to live the life I want to live.

And Yet She Persisted

Anne faced many obstacles in her life. She received a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology from Cornell University (1969). She earned her M.S. in Wildlife Management from Colorado State University (1958) and a B.S. in Conservation of Natural Resources from Cornell (1955).

Being an environmentalist and a woman wasn’t always easy. As she was trying to pursue her B.S. at Cornell, in her senior year, she learned women weren’t allowed to do the field study that the program required as a final project. Her professors suggested that she do library research instead, barring her from completing a true thesis.

Anne LaBastille, via the Adirondack Experience

Still, Anne was fearless and refused to back down. She persisted and completed her field study, and graduated as the second woman to have enrolled in Cornell’s Natural Resources program. She kept pushing forward to pursue the life and career that mattered most to her.

For almost a year now, I’ve had a cutout from a magazine article on my fridge. It announces the donation of Anne LaBastille’s cabin to the Adirondack Experience, which is a must see museum chronicling Adirondack life located in the town of Blue Mountain Lake. She is the original “Woodswoman” and every time I see the article on my fridge I think, “Could I do it? Could I be that woman?”

Facing The Fear Of The Unknown.

I grew up with a deep love of the outdoors, but my experiences were limited to the suburbs around New York City. I didn’t make it to the Adirondack Mountains until I was in my 30’s. This lifestyle change was everything I wanted it to be, but that didn’t mean it came without negative moments or adversity. And then there was the fear of entering the unknown. I think that this, among other reasons, is why so many people admire Anne LaBastille.

She charged forward like she wasn’t afraid. The stark truth, though, is that she probably was terrified some of the time. I often wonder if this is true for the majority of us, both in life and in finances.

Does the fear of the unknown halt us in our tracks – stop us from making progress towards the life we want? I believe it does. I’m constantly amazed that it didn’t stop her. She knew she wanted and needed to be an advocate for the environment. She worked to preserve her beloved Adirondack Mountains, but she didn’t stop there.

After earning her Ph.D. she did extensive work in Guatemala. Anne immediately keyed into the environmental destruction that was happening. She began to focus on being a passionate advocate for environmental preservation – both in the Adirondacks and in Guatemala.

Anne wanted to do more than just advocate for environmental preservation, she wanted to educate others on the importance of what she was doing. She believed that through education and deliberate perseverance, she could initiate a change.

What Kind Of World Do You Want?

I recently made it to the Adirondack Experience to see Anne’s log cabin. It was beautiful – although smaller than I imagined. Of course, in the Adirondacks, where winters are harsh and you must be cognizant of every resource you have, you want small. This realization reminded me of yet another reason I love these mountains – they’re authentic and real.

During my visit, I was endlessly impressed by the gifts she chose to leave behind. From the scholarships she established, to the donation of her cabin, to the memoirs she’s written – all of Anne’s work has left a legacy.

I think the key takeaway here is that Anne knew the legacy she wanted to leave. She knew the kind of world that she wanted to leave behind. More importantly, she followed her passion to help achieve those goals.

Anne LaBastille was a force of nature. But we don’t hear about her often. Few people know the legacy she left behind, or about the amazing things she did with her life. She could be representative of anybody – even you and me. She harnessed her passions and she used her skills as a writer, photographer, and scientist to become a fierce advocate for what she loved – the wilderness.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Anne knew that leaving a legacy was about the day-to-day choices she made. She didn’t set out to be a mover and a shaker – she just stayed true to her passion and never stopped moving forward. We can all make those choices, and we can surround ourselves with people who encourage and support us in our decisions – both personal and financial.

One part of my career that I love is being the person who supports my clients in making financial decisions that leave a legacy. It’s not always about chasing wealth – it’s about shaping a financial life that helps you pursue your passion.

In the planning world, we often think about the dollars and cents of life – but it’s much more than that. Reaching fulfillment and creating a legacy is about more than your wealth, or about planning for a comfortable retirement. As you move forward through your day, your month, your year, I challenge you to ask yourself: What do I want to be remembered for?

And then, of course, comes the question: How do we get there?

Ending note: If you haven’t visited the Adirondack Experience, or Anne’s cabin in Blue Mountain Lake, I encourage you to do so! It’s absolutely amazing – certainly an experience you won’t forget. You can also read Anne LaBastille’s memoir series – Woodswoman. They are the books that originally led me to her amazing story.

NOTES FROM RACHEL
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