Tag Archives: Annie Smith Peck

Thanks, Radio Boston!

I had a lovely time speaking with Meghna Chakrabarti on Radio Boston at WBUR today. It was also fantastic to work with Producer/Writer Zoe Mitchell. You can listen to the podcast here. Thanks for tuning in!


Publication Date!

My publication date is here! It’s been a long time coming, as you can see from this 1935 rejection letter written exactly 82 years ago today to Annie Peck’s first biographer who never did end up writing her story. I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as coincidence, but I do believe that #persistence matters. Thanks for reading!


New Review from Sierra Club!

The Kick-Ass Female Mountaineer You Never Heard Of

“With precise language and robust descriptions, Kimberley pulls this slight, wily woman out of the vaults of history and inserts Annie Smith Peck in her rightful place among our country’s most accomplished mountaineers and social leaders.”

Annie Smith Peck

Library Journal review

From the June 15 issue of Library Journal: Annie Smith Peck

“Annie Smith Peck (1850–1935) is the most accomplished woman most readers have never heard of. With this debut, Kimberley does an excellent job of situating Peck in her time and place, late 19th- and early 20th-century America. Peck grew up in Providence at a time when women were expected to follow a well-established path to wife and motherhood. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1878 and receiving her Master’s degree in 1881, Peck spent a “wretched” two years teaching at Purdue before traveling to Europe to study and climb mountains. Peck decided to become a touring lecturer (following a brief tenure teaching at Smith College), giving talks across the United States about Greek history and archaeology as well as mountain climbing. She continued to lecture and write about her journeys throughout her life, bucking traditional roles by never marrying and traveling alone to foreign countries. Some of her major climbs included being the first woman to ascend Mt. Shasta in 1888, along with reaching the summits of Matterhorn, Illampu in Bolivia, and Huascarán in Peru. VERDICT Readers of adventure stories, women’s history, and biographies will enjoy this well-researched book.”

—Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN

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

Firsts in Flight: The Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart and…. Annie Smith Peck

Orville (piloting) and Wilbur (at wingtip) Wright on their first flight in 1903.

Orville (piloting) and Wilbur (at wingtip) Wright on their first flight in 1903.

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

100 Years of ‘The Year of the Woman’

Peck’s headlines in the Baltimore Sun Newspaper, Nov. 3, 1912

A little over a week has passed since the 2012 presidential election, and news coverage abounds with discussion on women’s involvement in politics in “The Year of the Woman,” so I thought it fitting that my first post should highlight Peck’s participation in the political arena. Headlines this past week read, “How Women Ruled the 2012 Election and Where the GOP Went Wrong” and “Women in Politics Break Records in 2012.” Interestingly, these banners mirror news article titles from the 1912 Presidential Election: “Women Leap Suddenly into Political Favor” (New York Herald, Aug. 11, 1912) and  “Women in the Thick of PoliticalFight ” (New York Tribune, Aug. 14, 1912).
Continue reading