Annie Smith Peck Biography

Journalist, Athlete (1850–1935)
Annie Smith Peck was a trailblazing scholar, writer and athlete who set records as a mountain climber in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Annie Smith Peck was born on October 19, 1850, in Providence, Rhode Island, and worked as a scholar and teacher of Latin before taking up mountain climbing. She scaled natural wonders like the Citlaltépetl volcano, Monte Cristallo and Mount Huascarán, establishing mountain-climbing records while defying gender conventions. She continued to climb into her 80s. Peck died on July 18, 1935, in New ork City, New York.

Early Life and Career

Mountain climber and author Annie Smith Peck was born on October 19, 1850, in Providence, Rhode Island. Annie Peck Smith set many records during her career as a mountain climber, including the highest climb in the Americas in 1908. Some sources also credit her as the first woman to climb the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.

After earning a bachelors and masters degree in Greek at the University of Michigan, Annie Peck Smith worked for a time as a teacher. She went to Europe in 1884 to study in Germany. The next year Smith became the first woman to attend the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. At first, she tried supporting herself by lecturing on Greek archaeology, but found that audiences were more interested in her hobby, mountain climbing. The sport was still relatively new and there were few female climbers. It was also incredibly dangerous as there were no oxygen tanks or other supportive equipment to help climbers at high altitudes.

Other Endeavors

After climbing the Matterhorn in 1895, Annie Smith Peck continued to seek new challenges, especially in the mountains in the Americas. She tackled Mexico's Mount Orizaba in 1897, setting the women's altitude record at that time. Wanting to reach heights higher than anyone else - male or female - had done before, Peck tried several times to climb Mount Illampu in Bolivia. Despite this setback, she tried to reach her goal by climbing Mount Huascarán in Peru. Peck was victorious on her second attempt in 1908. Having reached a height of 21, 812 feet, she set the record for the highest climb in the Western Hemisphere at the age of 58. For her amazing feat, the peak she scaled was named Cumbre Aa Peck in her honor.

Annie Smith Peck wrote about her adventures in the 1911 book A Search for the Apex of America. She continued to climb and seek out new challenges. A dedicated supporter of a woman's right to vote, Peck hung a "Votes for Women" banner on Mount Coropuna in Peru. Also an avid traveler, Annie Smith Peck wrote several guide books about South America. Around 1929, she set out on a new challenge, exploring South America using commercial airline flights, a feat she wrote about in Flying Over South America: Twenty Thousand Miles by Air (1932).


Annie Smith Peck died in New York City on July 18, 1935. Shortly before her death, she had been doing what she loved best??climbing the Acropolis in Athens. Peck is remembered for her adventurous spirit and determination, forging in new ground for women in a new sport.

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