Over one hundred years ago today, in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright brought their “flying machine” to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, and soared through the air in a contraption that was “heavier than air.” The news was a sensation, and once more, like mountain climbing, a few determined women took to flight as well. I was reminded of this in a recent episode of HBO’s 1920s period drama Boardwalk Empire, which featured a woman pilot who endeavors to fly alone across America. In reality, the pilot, as creative producer Terence Winter explains, was modeled after Neta Snook, the woman who taught Amelia Earhart how to fly. And yes, if you are wondering, this all connects to Annie Smith Peck, since she also took to the skies, once she had accomplished her major mountain climbing feats, at the age of 80.
New air service from Panama to South America inspired Peck to take a seven-month, twenty thousand-mile tour in and around South America on some of the first available commercial flights. Upon her return from her tenth and last trip to South America, she wrote her fourth and final book, Flying Over South America: Twenty Thousand Miles by Air, which was published in 1932. And, Amelia Earhart, who, along with Peck, belonged to the Society of Women Geographers, championed her book, including writing her endorsement for the dust jacket. Reflecting on Peck’s career in climbing and exploration, Earhart noted,
“I felt an upstart [compared to Peck]. [Peck’s climbing career] “gives me the impression … I am just a `softie.’ However, I am somehow comforted by the fact that Miss Peck would make almost anyone appear soft.”
Peck was also acquainted with Wilbur Wright, and you can read that humorous story here, which she wrote about in her last book: Continue reading