First Review!

“Hannah Kimberley’s fine new biography of pioneering woman climber Annie Peck draws on a treasure trove of previously unavailable correspondence and other sources. Her book is affectionate and informative, though by no means hagiographic. Kimberley clearly admires Peck, for her genuine achievements as a mountaineer, for her shining intelligence, sturdy independence, and her staunch support of women’s rights. But the reader also learns about a woman whose ego, ambition, and fierce competitiveness could on occasion lead her into dubious exaggerations about the summits she reached, as well as a disregard for the well-being and contributions of others on her adventures in the Peruvian Andes. Kimberley’s Annie Peck is a complicated and fascinating historical actor.”

Maurice Isserman, author of Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering, and co-author of Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of ExtremesAnnie Smith Peck.

Annie Smith Peck, c. 1892

Annie Smith Peck, c. 1892

Girl Risen

and Girls Rising

Annie taught high school in the 1870s, but soon realized that she would earn thirty to fifty percent less than men with the same qualifications would. Thinking that attaining the same education as her brothers would increase her pay, she wrote to her father and asked if he would allow her to attend the University of Michigan, which had just opened its doors to women in 1870.

Annie received responses from both her father and her brother John, who explained that a college education was too much education for a woman, but she might benefit from a private tutoring to improve her reputation, since it wasn’t befitting for her to associate with boys in school. They further argued that even if it was appropriate for her to go, it was now too late to attend university at the age of twenty-three and graduate at the very old age of twenty-seven.

On top of her father and brother’s reasoning, many people saw higher education for women as something that was hazardous to their health. This “fact” had been scientifically “proven” by Harvard professor Edward H. Clarke, in Sex in Education, a treatise against coeducation, which became a best seller at the time. Clarke explained that women who seek higher education are committing a “slow suicide” by using energy on the brain, which takes energy away from the reproductive system. In essence, educating women would render America a motherless society.

Annie was outraged that her father would deny her the same education as her brothers. She responded to him in a long letter with the following highlights: Continue reading

Happy Women’s History Month!

College students question the President Wilson. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division [reproduction number: LC-USZ62-31799, digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a32338].

College students question the President Wilson. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division [reproduction number: LC-USZ62-31799, digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a32338].

Last week, thousands of women attended the Centennial Women’s Suffrage March, and walked  from the Capitol to the Washington Monument in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March in which Alice Paul and many other suffragists demanded the right to vote the day before President Wilson’s inauguration in Washington D.C.

Annie Smith Peck participated a great deal in the suffrage movement – from marching in suffrage parades and acting as president of the Joan of Arc Suffrage League to writing numerous editorials in favor of suffrage. This being said, she always seemed to want to have things done her way – even if it meant quitting the show before it was over.

Following this line, here are two of my favorite vignettes that describe Annie’s notoriety and involvement (or lack therof) in the suffrage movement as well as a FABULOUS VIDEO that celebrates our fight for the right to vote:

True story:
In 1911, a woman walked into the Women’s Suffrage Headquarters in New York to purchase a ticket to the next political meeting on the votes for women movement.

“I am sorry,” replied the secretary, “but I have nothing left except the second gallery. Perhaps you would not care to climb as high as that.”

I don’t know that I would object to climb to the second gallery,” said the visitor calmly. “I am Annie Peck.”

So the secretary, then recognizing Miss Peck as the famous mountaineer, had no further hesitation in presenting her with a second gallery ticket.

True story # 2: Continue reading