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9 trailblazing female explorers

By: Matt Hickman on Oct. 24, 2016, 12:17 p.m.
Fanny Bullock Workman, about 1900

Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection/Public domain

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Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925)

Although she first gained recognition for partaking in and writing about epic cycling expeditions through exotic locales (India, Algeria, Italy, Spain, etc.) in the company of her just-as-adventurous husband, New England socialite turned alpinist Fanny Bullock Workman is perhaps best known for opening doors and breaking records in the realm of female mountaineering.

From the Swiss Alps to the Himalayas, there was no peak Workman wasn’t game to conquer. During a handful of Himalayan expeditions, Workman set several altitude records, including the ascension of Pinnacle Peak (22,810 feet) in 1906. She was 47 at the time. An incredibly aggressive and tenacious mountaineer who was immune to altitude sickness, Workman was in constant competition with Annie Smith Peck, another trailblazing female climber who turned heads about the same time in the male-dominated sport.

The second woman to address the Royal Geographic Society — Isabella Bird was the first — Workman was an outspoken supporter of the suffrage movement who had no qualms with challenging how Victorian women were supposed to conduct themselves. The fascinating Workman didn’t just climb mountains; she moved them.