Miss Peck: The “19th Century Indiana Jones”

RHi X17 1683. Miss Peck in Climbing Costume
RHi X17 1683. Miss Peck in Climbing Costume

The following is a guest post by former RIHS intern Jessica Chandler.

Pictured here in her mountaineering uniform in 1908 is Annie Smith Peck, a remarkable woman. Born in Providence in 1850, she graduated from both Providence High School and Rhode Island Normal School, a school for teachers that’s now known as Rhode Island College. When she was denied entrance into Brown University based upon her gender, Miss Peck took her education to the University of Michigan, graduating with a Masters in Greek and Classical Languages.

But her journey did not stop there. Miss Peck taught languages in both Providence and New Jersey before going to Germany to study music. In 1885, she became the first woman to study at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. That same year, she discovered her love for mountaineering, climbing Cape Misenum in Italy and other mountains in Switzerland between 1885 and 1886.

Along with climbing, Miss Peck was still well-known for teaching, and by 1892 gave regular lectures on archaeology. She continued to give these lectures as she hiked in Europe and in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. When she did, controversy sparked in the press over her mountaineering costume, in which she wore a tunic, climbing boots, and pants.

Starting in 1897, Miss Peck climbed in South America, including Mount Orizaba and Mount Popocatepetl in Mexico; in 1904, she climbed Mount Sorata in Bolivia.

The photograph of Miss Peck pictured here is when she became the first woman to climb Mount Navado Huascaurán in Peru in 1908. For many years afterward she continued to climb, even well into her old age.

A pioneer in more ways than one, a Rhode Island native, and R.I.C. graduate, Miss Peck is buried in Providence’s North Burial Ground.

Works Cited

Kimberley, Scialdone Hannah. “Peck’s Bio.” Annie Smith Peck: A Woman’s Place is at the Top. WordPress, 2012. Web. June 2014. <http://anniesmithpeck.org/pecks-bio-4/>

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