Julia Freeman Fairchild(1886–1984)

Julia Freeman Fairchild was born and raised in Manhattan, and at the time of her 1908 engagement to Benjamin Tappen Fairchild, the New York Times reported that the bride-to-be was “fond of outdoor sports” (“B. T. Fairchild to Wed Miss Julia Freeman,” 1 May 1908). Her fondness for the outdoors led her to make several significant contributions to the sport of fly fishing and the field of conservation.

Fairchild’s husband served as president of the Anglers’ Club of New York from 1929 to 1930. The story goes that Julia Fairchild and her close friend Frank Hovey-Roof Connell were listening to Fairchild’s husband recount stories about the club and its importance to his life. Knowing that the club was restricted to men, Fairchild and Connell decided to start an all-women counterpart. In 1932, the first women’s fishing organization was founded: the Woman Flyfishers Club was chartered in New York and started with thirty-five members. Although freshwater fly fishing was their main focus, the club included salt water in their repertoire.

Fairchild served as president of the Woman Flyfishers Club for the next thirty-nine years. She stressed the philosophy that the individuals in the club are to be self-reliant and independent. All club members are expected to take care of their own equipment, clean their own fish, and help maintain the club fishing waters. Fairchild was much admired by women in the club, and she was affectionately known as “Dame Julia” in reference to Dame Juliana Berners. From 1932 to 1971, when Fairchild retired as president, the club expanded, founded a clubhouse and club fishing waters in the Catskills, and led the group to support the creation of the Cold Spring Harbor (New York) Fish Hatchery.

During her lifetime Fairchild also served on the Trout Unlimited national board, received the Garden Club of America’s Conservation Committee Certificate, founded the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor, and worked with both the Suffolk County Park and Recreation Commission and the Long Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy. In honor of Julia Fairchild’s commitment to preservation, the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium dedicated their Fairchild Building in her name. Before her husband’s death, the couple also donated 125 acres in Greenwich, Connecticut, to the National Audubon Society, a bird sanctuary now known as the Fairchild Wildflower Garden.

The Woman Flyfishers Club is still active, and their home base remains in the Catskills.

From the collection of the Woman Flyfishers Club.