Accession Number #89-002

Biographical Note

Annie Smith Peck (1850-1935), scholar and mountaineer, was born in Providence, R. I., October 19, 1850, the youngest of five children of George Batchelder Peck and Ann Power Smith Peck. Mr. Peck was a graduate of Brown University and a member of the Providence City Council with a successful law practice. He also owned a wood and coal yard. Annie’s schooling began at Dr. Stockbridge's School for Young Ladies. She then attended Providence High School and the Rhode Island Normal School graduating in 1872. After teaching for a while, she moved to Saginaw, Michigan, to become a principal. But, she wished to continue her education and enrolled (in 1870) at the University of Michigan, which had just started to allow women to attend. She graduated in 1878 majoring in Greek and classical languages and went on to receive a master's degree in 1881. Ms. Peck accepted a position as professor of Latin and elocution at Purdue, one of the first women to have such a job. Ms. Peck left for Greece and became the first woman student at the American School of Classical Studies there. Upon her return, she accepted a teaching position at Smith College which she kept until 1892, when Ms. Peck realized that she could support herself with her public lectures.

       At the age of forty-four, Annie Peck took up mountain climbing. She was the third woman to scale the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. She climbed mountain peaks throughout the world and ascended the north peak of Peru's (22,205-foot) Mount Huascaran in 1908 at the age of fifty-eight. Ms. Peck climbed the highest summit in the Americas, but was still ridiculed by many male mountaineers. She was also hampered by limited funding and poorly constructed equipment (because they were designed for men). For her ascent of Mount Huascaran, she designed and made her own mountain shoes. In 1909, Ms. Peck climbed Peru's Mount Coropuna (21,083 feet) and, as an early feminist, planted a "votes for women" pennant on its summit. She continued traveling and mountain-climbing until the end of her life; her last ascent was of New Hampshire's Mount Madison (5,636 feet) at the age of eighty two! Annie Smith Peck, a woman of many “firsts,” died in New York on July 18, 1935.


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