I decided in my teens that I would do what one woman could do to show that women had as much brains as men and could do things as well if she gave them her undivided attention.

A scholar and mountaineer, Annie Smith Peck spent her life working to reach new heights for women, both literally and metaphorically.

Annie Smith Peck was born into a prominent Rhode Island family on 19th October 1850. Her father, George B. Beck, was a lawyer and city councilman who also ran a number of businesses.

Annie was a dedicated student, and she pursued a level of education that was almost unheard of for women during this time period. In 1875, she enrolled in the University of Michigan, which had only begun admitting women five years prior, where she completed a four-year degree program in just three years.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with honors in 1878, at which point she went on to pursue a master’s degree. She earned that degree in 1881, and after completion of her masters program, she began working as a professor at Purdue University.  In accepting this position, she became one of the first female professors in the United States.

Were this all Annie had ever accomplished, she would still be a remarkable woman with a story worth telling, but becoming one of America’s first female professors was only the beginning of Annie’s groundbreaking accomplishments. In 1885, after seeing the Matterhorn during a trip to Greece, Annie became intrigued by the prospect of mountain climbing.  At the age of 44, she began trying her hand at it, and in 1895, a decade after first spotting the Matterhorn, she became the third woman to climb it and the first to do so wearing pants.

Her most groundbreaking summit occurred in 1910 when she summited Mount Huascaran. It was an arduous climb, one that she attempted five times over the course of four years. She was 60 years old when she finally succeeded, and in doing so, she became the first person of any gender to summit Mount Huascaran. In 1927, the north peak of that mount was named in her honor: Cumbre Aña Peck.  

A year after summiting Mount Huascaran, Anna summited another mount in Peru: Mount Coropuna. This time, she left a “Votes for Women” pennant at the top.  Anna continued climbing throughout her life, summiting her last mountain at the age of 82. She passed away a few years later and remains, to this day, the only woman in history to become the first to summit a major world peak.  


©The Heroine Collective 2020 – Present, All Rights Reserved. Every effort is made to ensure our articles are as accurate as they can possibly can be, but if you notice a factual error, please do be in touch. We only use images we believe are either in the public domain or images we believe we are able to use for illustrative, editorial and non-commercial purposes. If you believe one of our images is being used incorrectly, please be in touch. References include Annie Smith Peck: Scholar and Mountaineer by Dr. Russell A Potter  // Annie Smith Peck: America Mountain Climber, Encyclopedia Britannica// Annie Smith Peck, Brooklyn Museum. 

Amber Karlins

Written by Amber Karlins

Amber works as a professor in Florida, teaching writing, literature, and theatre. Her first book, a work of creative non-fiction, was published in 2011. She also enjoys academic writing and has published papers in such places as the African American National Biography and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies.

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