Annie Smith Peck was a popular figure as a climber, explorer and suffragist at the turn of the last century. Peck climbed Matterhorn in 1895 (at the age of forty-five), which brought her instant fame – not because of her climb, but because of what she wore to scale the peak: a pair of pants (instead of a long skirt). Her climbing costume was a feat in itself, as news accounts during this time of women being arrested for wearing men’s attire were not uncommon. She held the record for conquering the second highest peak ascended in the western hemisphere in 1908. Peck fought for women’s suffrage and participated in politics before she had the right to vote. She was honored and celebrated by not only America, but by South American countries as well. The northern peak of Mount Huascarán in Peru is named after Peck, Cumbre Ana Peck. And, she accomplished all of this as an unmarried woman, leading her own expeditions. There are over 100 news articles about and by Peck between 1900 and 1930, which discuss her achievements in climbing and exploration, her many public lectures, women’s suffrage, politics, and popular culture. She lectured throughout the United States and South America and published numerous articles and four books on that part of the world. However, after 1935, when Peck died, news coverage of her died as well, leaving us without her legacy, until now.
Hannah S. Kimberley’s forthcoming biography on Peck, A Woman’s Place Is at the Top: The Biography of Annie Smith Peck, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2016.