Honoring our Founding Mothers and 55th Birthday

On a May evening in 1962 more than two dozen of Ruth Spangenberg’s friends and neighbors gathered in the plant-filled living room of her Page Mill Road home. They were housewives, engineers, teachers, architects and writers who believed a balance needed to be struck between development and open space. That night, Committee for Green Foothills was born.

“We were a group with 20/20 vision,” said co-founding member Lois Crozier-Hogle, who organized the fateful meeting at Spangenberg’s, in a 1987 Palo Alto Times Tribune article. “If one thing bound us together, it was our determination to save the foothills for our children and grandchildren. Development was coming fast, and if we were going to save the foothills, we needed to do it right then.”

Crozier-Hogle passed away in 2005 and Spangenberg followed in 2011. Both women lived to be 92. Intelligent, educated and passionate in their environmental work while raising families and handling life’s many challenges, they blazed an inspirational trail. The wetlands and creeks, agricultural fields, unspoiled coastlines, undeveloped foothills and forested mountains you see throughout the Bay Area today have likely been touched by the hard work and vigilance of Crozier-Hogle, Spangenberg and thousands of other Committee for Green Foothills’ members.

“All who look out at the hills in the morning…owe to the people of that Committee many of the blessings that they see,” wrote Committee for Green Foothills’ first president and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Wallace Stegner, whose reputation and eloquent words have championed the organization since its inception. Many others have also lent their credibility and influence to Committee to Green Foothills over the years including lawyers, university presidents and members of senate and congress.

However, it was the founding mothers who were the organizers and sustaining energy behind much of Committee for Green Foothills’ success. The grassroots organization these pioneering women helped create on that spring night a generation ago continues to be a women-led force for nature influencing our region’s environmental policies, ecological health and natural beauty.

“I like to think of the founders of The Committee for Green Foothills…as the mothers who were rocking the cradle,” said former Board President Ciddy Wordel. “They were pioneers in the environmental movement.”

The political and social climate Committee for Green Foothills was born into in the 1960s is not unlike today. Policies that support the protection of people and natural resources still need tireless advocates, nature still needs constant defending and developers and government officials still need to be held accountable for the ways their projects and policies affect local communities and the environment.

At fifty-five years young and with the vision of our founding mothers as clear and essential as ever, our birthday wish is to successfully continue their work and carry the torch they lit to the next generation…and the next and the next. 

As Crozier-Hogle said thirty years ago, “The words for the future are: eternal vigilance.”

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