Fanny Bullock Workman, a mountaineer, cartographer and feminist from the early 1900s, would not approve of recent news in the climbing world, particularly that coming out of Everest.
The environmental concerns due to an overabundance of waste would perturb her, but author Cathryn Prince also wondered if Workman might be even more put-off by the number of deaths of inexperienced climbers who thought they could bucket-list their way up such a mighty summit.
“However, Fanny would likely approve of individuals such as Melissa Arnot,” said Prince. Arnot was the first American woman to ascend Everest without using supplemental oxygen on May 23, 2016.
In search of a pioneering woman whose narrative could correlate to today’s polarized discussions about gender and women’s rights, Prince lucked upon the “Queen of the Mountaineers.”
“One the first images I came across was of her riding a safety bicycle during what turned out to be a trip she took through Algeria,” said Prince. “Ankle-length skirt and all.”
Prince was hooked from there. Author of five other works of nonfiction and countless articles, Prince spent about two-and-a-half years deviling into Workman’s life and work as a geographer and explorer. Her studies led her to the National Library of Scotland to comb through Workman’s travel journals.
“She (Workman) was not someone who wore her heart on her sleeve,” Prince said. “Only a few times in her journals did she reveal some emotional elements of her journeys.”
While Workman stood firm for women’s suffrage, Prince said that it was often a situational stance, but her contradictions made her more appealing to Prince.
“She was complicated and flawed. When people ask if I would have liked her as a person, I respond with ‘Does that really matter?’” And the answer is no, especially when one discovers the multitude of surprising elements about Workman, who climbed well into her late-50s without the benefits of today’s technology and gear.
Other than being a pioneer among climbers, men or women, what most intrigued Prince about Workman was that she regularly left her children behind while in pursuit of her next adventure.
“But I suppose I haven’t pondered that fact about the male climbers I’ve read about,” Prince said. “Which is precisely why Workman’s turn-of-the-century travels bear relevance today, and why Prince purposefully sought a female champion from history.
“Fanny thought women should strike their own path.”
Prince has certainly struck out her own path as a writer, amassing significant travels in her own right. While in Switzerland she covered the Nazi Gold Crisis, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Swiss Parliament, and a wire-tapping scandal. She also reported on cow fights and chocolate. Savannah is lucky that her travels will lead her to The Book Lady Bookstore for the Fourth of July.
Her body of work was what most impressed Joni Saxon-Giusti, owner of The Book Lady.
“The story that Prince has told in ‘Queen of the Mountaineers’ is tailor-made for today,” said Saxon-Giusti. “For women in 21st century America who are breaking through glass ceiling after ceiling and reclaiming our full constitutional rights, it is inspiring to hear the stories of the struggles and triumphs of women who have laid the groundwork for our success."