The Women of AMC

November 1, 2008

At AMC’s second meeting, in 1876, founders decided to extend membership to women and allow them equal participation in club outings and events. Despite being encumbered by modest dress, which included long, thick Victorian skirts, a large number of women quickly became active members in the club.

In 1882, women made up the majority of a 28-person party that climbed 5,800-foot Mount Adams, in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, and spent a night near its summit. Similarly, in 1887, women outnumbered men on the first AMC excursion to Katahdin in Maine. Women also led Saturday outings, spoke at evening programs, and took part in some of the first snowshoeing trips in the White Mountains.

Grace Herreshoff was an avid tramper during the early to mid-1900s and kept detailed journals about her hiking excursions. (AMC’s library has four journals that cover 1906 through 1917.) On September 22, 1906, for instance, she hiked a total of 12 miles to climb Mount Madison. Herreshoff and the members of her party descended Madison via the Howker Ridge, and her journal records instances of hiking “thro’ the thickest scrub possible” in search of “obscure but fresh blazes.” The party lost their way at times, causing Herreshoff to note, “Without hunting long for the trail we ploughed thro’ and up on to the Howk. Search was fruitless, and for the second time I felt somewhat discouraged….”

Her journal indicates such discouragement was short-lived. The group found their way home, and like many hikers before and after her, Herreshoff let her surroundings provide inspiration, penning, “We walked home by road, arriving about 8 p.m., the moon shining palely, spasmodically on the heavy clouds, which still clung to the summits. There was a lovely vague golden light at sunset, the color of which we glimpsed thro’ the trees.”

Images seen here appear courtesy of the AMC Library and Archives. Duplicates can be ordered for a fee. Funds support efforts to preserve the club’s historical collections. Contact Library and Archives at 617-391-6629, visit the website, or send an e-mail for details.

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