Influential Women #14: Annie Smith Peck

It’s been a while since I posted one of these, but I feel like in this time of exam-breakdowns we are in dire need of some badass women to look up to. Today: Annie Smith Peck. Domain of badassery: MOUNTAINEERING. YES, THAT’S RIGHT.

Annie Smith was born in the middle of the 19th century (1850 to be exact), age of sexism and forcing women to wear long-ass skirts. Growing up with three brothers, competition was in Annie’s blood: she’d try everything she could to overshadow her three older brothers. With traditional yet supportive parents, after thoroughly arguing why she should be allowed to get a higher education, Annie managed to get her father to support her decision to study at Michigan University. She had tried applying to Brown University first, but they denied her application because of her gender. Michigan University, however, allowed women to apply from 1871 onwards, and Annie got in.

Not long after Annie obtained a degree in classical languages, she discovered a passion for mountaineering. During a trip to Italy she reached the summit of Cape Misenum, She then went to Greece where she became the first woman to study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, while her interest in mountaineering grew. She climbed Mount Hymettus and Mount Pentecus, and earned money going around giving lectures about archaeology and classical languages, especially ancient Greek. After that, she moved back to the Americas. There she started mountaineering in Peru and Bolivia, and those are the climbs she is most known for. She braved the over 6000m climb to the summit of Huascarán in Peru. She was the first woman to ever do this. Because of her efforts, the northern peak of this mountain was named after her. It would from then on be known as Cumbre Aña Peck.

Annie Smith Peck never married and continued mountaineering for the rest of her life. When she was 65 she reached the top of Coropuna in Peru, where she proudly placed a banner supporting the women’s right to vote. She was 82 when she ascended her last mountain, Mount Madison in New Hampshire. There aren’t many people, men or women alike, who’d be able to do the same. When she was 84 she started a world tour to keep on mountaineering, but she got sick when she was ascending the Acropolis in Greece. She died not long after.

If we can take anything away from Annie Smith Peck’s story, it’s that you should never stop doing what you love. Annie suffered from discrimination not only when she tried to get a higher education but also when practicing her passion, but it never stopped her from doing it anyway.

  • L. Parole.
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