A Woman's Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers by Hannah Kimberley

A Woman's Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers

Annie Smith Peck is one of the most accomplished women of the twentieth century that you have never heard of. Peck was a scholar, writer, lecturer, mountain climber, swimmer, oarswoman, horsewoman, splendid conversationalist, and well-trained listener. She was a feminist and an independent thinker who never let gender stereotypes stand in her way. Peck gained fame as the t...

Title:A Woman's Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers
Author:
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ISBN:1250084008
Number of Pages:320 pages

A Woman's Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers Reviews

  • Amy Moritz

    Let me tell you what's cool -- finding these great biographies written about some pretty kickass women you probably never heard of. A few years ago, I discovered two about Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. Then there was a great read about Belva Lockwood, the first woman to run for president, even before women had the right to vote. (Seriously, go read these books.)

    Now enter Annie Smith Peck.

    I had never heard of her until this book found its way into my mailbox at wor

    Let me tell you what's cool -- finding these great biographies written about some pretty kickass women you probably never heard of. A few years ago, I discovered two about Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. Then there was a great read about Belva Lockwood, the first woman to run for president, even before women had the right to vote. (Seriously, go read these books.)

    Now enter Annie Smith Peck.

    I had never heard of her until this book found its way into my mailbox at work. (One of the perks of working at The Buffalo News is having the book editor throw review copies in your mailbox hoping you will read and review them. My review for the paper was filed this morning. Just FYI.) I'm not a "climber" but a hiker and outdoorswoman and was intrigued by this biography of the "Queen of the Climbers." She also is dubbed by the author as "Queen of the Late Bloomers." Annie climbed her first big peak, the Matterhorn, when she was 45 years old.

    Peeps, there is hope for me yet.

    Hannah Kimberley did a fantastic job researching Annie's letters and journals to salvage her life story from the footnotes of history. More a history read than an adventure read, Kimberely does a great job presenting the life of Annie and putting her in the context of her time.

    Peck always knew she didn't want to marry or raise a family. (This was at the turn of the 20th century my friends.) She pursued higher education at a time when college and post-graduate work was largely closed to women. Unsatisfied with her limited options, mostly teaching, she worked her way onto an archeological dig in Greece and returned to the U.S. to travel doing a lecture tour. She noted people were interested in her hobby of climbing and so she began to hustle to find her way to the top of peaks. She would hustle for money to finance her expeditions, attempt the climb, then return to the U.S. to write articles and lecture on it. She repeated this often.

    Annie was always hustling. Always broke. Always trying to prove her worthiness as a climber, a scholar and an expert on Pan-American relations.

    She had plenty of critics and plenty of fans. At times she seemed too concerned about what people thought of her, but then again, don't we all fall into that trap. But in the end, I'm inspired by Annie's gumption, her willingness to live her life on her own terms, and to forget about the artificial limits we put on ourselves because of our age or gender.

    Quotes from the book:

    "Annie was not only the 'Queen of the Climbers' as her new lecture placards now advertised, but she also happened to be queen of the late bloomers. By now, she had learned with certainty, much to her family's chagrin, that age was nothing but a number."

    "Oh, how I longed for am an with the pluck and determination to stand by me to the finish!"

    "I had always hoped Huascaran would prove to be the highest mountain in the western world, but now it seems that Aconcagua is highest. But anybody can climb that. It's just a walk. No cliffs. No glaciers."

    "A woman who has done good work in the scholastic field doesn't like to be called a good woman scholar. Call her a scholar and let it go at that. Taking the figures given for Mount Huascaran by the triangulation, I have climbed 1,500 feet higher than any man in the United States. Don't call me a woman mountain climber."

    "Miss Peck, the Mountain Climber ... This is a title that Annie would wrestle with throughout her life, as it gave no credit to her scholarly pursuits, political contributions or her other accomplishments."

    "She was viewed as a climber who had 'little sympathy for those who did not share her ambition.' ... These assessments are also true. However, many climbers and explorers of the time were described in this manner, although as men, they were celebrated rather than chastised for their unyielding determination to get to the top."

  • Lori

    I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this book. I had never heard of Annie Smith Peck but was glad I got the chance to learn more about his interesting woman. Annie was born in 1850. she was an athletic tomboy her whole childhood. Annie was one of the first women to attend University of Michigan. after graduating she was interested in travelling the world and climbing the highest mountains. She fought against the chauvinists who did not think a woman should be climbing mountains and in pants no

    I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this book. I had never heard of Annie Smith Peck but was glad I got the chance to learn more about his interesting woman. Annie was born in 1850. she was an athletic tomboy her whole childhood. Annie was one of the first women to attend University of Michigan. after graduating she was interested in travelling the world and climbing the highest mountains. She fought against the chauvinists who did not think a woman should be climbing mountains and in pants no less! I found it interesting how this woman found ways to raise the funds to travel around the world getting teams together and trying to climb to the top. This book writes of her success and failures trying to climb the mountains. She earned money from magazines by getting money funded and writing about her experience in their magazines. it was amazing to me how much mountain climbing cost getting the money to travel to the country, hiring a team of professionals the equipment etc. I give her credit for trying a sport mostly men did back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. No big surprise she was also a suffragette! Interesting book about a brave lady.

  • Francis

    The lack of a significant other, the disgruntled porters, and the injured guides seem to support the theory that extremely driven people tend to focus so much on her goal, but obliterate anything and anyone in her way. On the other hand, a suffragist, who believed that a woman can perform a task equally well as a man, must have expected her crew to perform at the same exceptional level as she did.

    It has a been an educational read for me. Not only did I learn about a pioneering climber that I can

    The lack of a significant other, the disgruntled porters, and the injured guides seem to support the theory that extremely driven people tend to focus so much on her goal, but obliterate anything and anyone in her way. On the other hand, a suffragist, who believed that a woman can perform a task equally well as a man, must have expected her crew to perform at the same exceptional level as she did.

    It has a been an educational read for me. Not only did I learn about a pioneering climber that I can look up to, I also learned about the era in which she grew up. Hannah Kimberley painted a vivid picture of the women’s suffragist movement and their struggle. The train around the country, the forced feeding through nostril, etc were inspirational and shocking. I wish there were more content on the actual climbs, because I was foremost drew to the book by the alpinist title.

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