Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Women in Antarctica

The history of the discovery and exploration of Antarctica is a long one. From rumors of the continent, to the near discovery in the 1770's, to the first people to finally reach the South Pole in 1911, it stretches across centuries. While the first man stepped foot in 1911, the first woman would not arrive until more than two decades later, with Caroline Mikkelsen, the wife of a Norwegian whaling captain being the first woman to step foot on Antarctica in 1935. Her excursion to Antarctica was brief, but it was the first of its kind. It would be more than a decade until Antarctica would see another woman.

Caroline Mikkelsen
In 1947 we see the first women to winter in Antarctica, with the arrival of two women traveling with their husbands who were members of the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition. Edith "Jackie" Ronne and Jennie Darlington, two women who originally planned on only journeying with their husbands as far as Valparasio, Chile, the last stop before reaching Antarctica, wound up at the last minute continuing with the Expedition to Antarctica. According to an obituary in the Washington Post, Ronne actually never planned on going with her husband at all, she traveled to Beaumont, Texas to see him off, but planned on returning home after that. The obituary states, "She packed little more than a good suit, a good dress, nylon stockings and high heels for the trip." However, her husband persuaded her to go with him, and she gave in, joining him for the journey, from Panama to Chile.
Jennie and Edith
Jackie making coffee in the hut.
*These two pictures came from The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning

Once Jackie was convinced into going to Antarctica with her husband, she wanted another woman to go with her. Jennie Darlington, new wife of the chief pilot of the Expidition, Harry Darlington, was to be the second woman. Ronne was the first American woman to step foot onto Antarctica, and Ronne and Darlington became the first women ever to spend the winter in Antarctica. After they left Antarctica Darlington stated, "Taking everything into consideration, I do not think women belong in Antarctica." Ronne's opinion was, "I will never, never go back to the Antarctic." While Darlington stuck with her opinion, Ronne returned thrice more to the Antarctic in her future years. 

These three women were the first women to ever step foot on Antarctica. Jackie Ronne was the first woman to assist the members of an Expedition, although she was not technically a member of the Expedition, she did serve as their recorder-historian. 

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