Born in Rhode Island in 1850, Annie Smith Peck became a teacher. A move to Michigan presented her with the opportunity to enroll in the University of Michigan where she earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Her next job was as Professor of Latin at Purdue University, making her one of the first women to attain such a position.
At age 44, though, she took up a “hobby” that would become her real passion–mountain climbing. She became the third woman to climb the Swiss Matterhorn and the first woman to do it wearing trousers.
At age 60, she became the first person to scale the north peak of Mount Huascaran in Peru. It took her six attempts to reach the top of the 22,205-foot peak, but she made it, wearing mountain shoes she had designed herself.
At age 82, she climbed Mount Madison in New Hampshire.
Described as slim, dainty and far more scholarly than athletic, Annie was considered an authority on South American economics, politics, geography and social issues.
In an interview with the Associated Press in 1929, she described her thoughts on reaching the summit of Huascaran: “I’m here at last after 10 years of effort, but shall we ever get down again?” The Lima Geographical Society named the north peak, Cumra Ana Peak, in her honor, and the government of Peru gave her a gold medal.
When asked how she began her mountain-climbing career, she answered, “How did it begin? Well, I climbed the Matterhorn as I had wanted to, and after that, it seemed I was always seeking another one...”
Later in the interview she is quoted as saying, “Oh, let’s not say how old I am. I may be called elderly but I am still young and lively.”
She was 79 at the time.