Many of you know that I’m writing a novel about the earliest women travellers to Antarctica, particularly Ingrid Christensen, who went there four times. Davis Station is located in an area called “Ingrid Christensen Land”, named after her.
For a bit of background – when did woman start going to Antarctica? They weren’t part of the fabric of Antarctic life until relatively recently – there were still plenty of barriers to women participating fully in Antarctic life in the 1970s and 80s.
But it wasn’t because they didn’t want to participate. Women started applying to be included in Antarctic expeditions early last century during the Heroic Era.
Scott was asked by at least one wealthy woman to take her along on his trip to the South Pole. Among Shackleton’s records is a letter from three young women who asked to join his expedition. They said:
“We are three strong healthy girls, and also gay and bright, and willing to undergo any hardships, that you yourself undergo. If our feminine garb is inconvenient, we should just love to don masculine attire. We have been reading all books and articles that have been written on dangerous expeditions by brave men to the Polar regions, and we do not see why men should have the glory, and women none, especially when there are women just as brave and capable as there are men.”
Newspaper reports show that women applied to be included in Antarctic expeditions in 1919, with the Adelaide advertiser running a story headed: “The Antarctic – Another Expedition – Women Want To Go”.
Twenty-five women applied to join Mawson’s BANZARE expedition in 1929, as reported in the London Times under the headline “Mawson Antarctic expedition: 25 women applicants”. A South Australian newspaper also ran the story, adding a series of sub heads in the style of the day:
“None has yet set foot there
Lured by science – and adventure
In 1937 the extraordinary number of 1300 women applied to join the British Antarctic Expedition. The headline ran: “Women Want To Go To Pole – 1,300 Applications – “No,” Says Leader”.
None of these women were permitted to travel to Antarctica. But during the 1930s, in the same decade that Amelia Earhart was thrilling the world with her exploits, Ingrid and her companions went to Antarctica four times.
More to come on that front…