Imogene La Covey knew from personal experience that a woman must not accept as law the existing stereotypes about what work women are qualified for and capable of doing. Born in Oklahoma in 1916, her father died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Her mother found work installing telephone switchboards throughout Oklahoma and Texas, work which hardly fit the theme of “women’s work” at the time. After graduating from high school, La Covey moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for General Motors until she turned 18 and was old enough to work for the federal government. She entered the National Park Service (NPS) in 1935 as a clerk-stenographer. In 1955 she became a clerk in the concessions management division. She then held a series of positions within the NPS concessions management division to include contract assistant, contract analyst, and later concessions analyst. After repeatedly demonstrating that she could perform well in managerial positions, NPS leaders made her chief of concessions management in 1973 and an associate director. As the first female NPS associate director, La Covey oversaw more than 340 businesses in 86 NPS areas. During her career, she received four performance awards, to include the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award.
La Covey retired in 1976 and passed away in 2008 at age 91. Through her exemplary and pioneering service, she created a shining path to success and career accomplishment for several highly qualified women in the Park Service. Today, women hold and have held several NPS associate director, deputy director and director positions thanks to the perseverance of people like Imogene La Covey.