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Annie Smith Peck

Annie Smith Peck was a pioneering scholar, mountain climber, writer and women’s rights advocate who broke numerous barriers to women’s equality. Born in Providence on Oct. 19, 1850, Peck grew up across the street from the NBG in the family home at 865 N. Main Street. A graduate of Rhode Island Normal School (now Rhode Island College), she later attended and graduated first in her class from the University of Michigan. Peck taught archeology and Latin at Purdue University and, after two years of study in Europe, became professor of Latin at Smith College. She conquered several of Latin America’s most dangerous peaks, including Mexico’s highest peak, Mount Orizaba; Mount Huascaran in the Peruvian Andes (South America’s second highest peak at 22,205 feet); and Mt. Coropuna in Peru (21,079 feet), where she planted a banner: “Votes for Women.” She organized and financed her own expeditions, a task made difficult by prevailing sexism. Male expedition members frequently failed her, often causing her to turn back before summiting. “One of the chief difficulties in a woman’s undertaking an expedition of this nature,” she wrote, “is that every man believes he knows better what should be done than she.” Peck wrote extensively about her accomplishments and also authored books on South America. Inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2009, upon her death in 1935 the New York Times noted: “She has done all that a man could, if not more. She had sagacity, and with it ‘nerve’ and ‘grit’.” Read More...

Ronald Dufour Ph.D, Professor, Rhode Island College