Friday, September 8, 2006

You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down

You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down

Having recently visited Mt. Rainier National Park, I learned a few things about its history. The first woman* to climb Mt. Rainier was Fay Fuller (1869-1958). She was a teacher and journalist originally from the East. As a youngster she moved to Tacoma, Washington, and developed a love of the outdoors. In the summer of 1887 Fay did some hiking in the Rainier National Park and was struck by the beauty of the mountain. She vowed to “climb the summit of the great peak.”

In August 1890, just before Fay’s 21st birthday, she managed to summit Mt. Rainier (14, 410 ft.) on her first attempt with a group of mountaineers. Most interesting to the media of the time was a description of what she wore: flannel bloomers, woolen hose, a straw hat, & flannel underwear. It was considered “immodest.” Ms. Fuller also blackened her face with charcoal and wore goggles. As there were no climbing boots for women in those days, she wore heavy calfskin boy’s shoes (see below).

After her first summit Fay continued an interest in mountaineering. She founded the Washington Alpine Club in 1891, and was a member of the Tacoma Alpine Club. She also wrote a column in her father’s newspaper called “Mountain Murmurs.” Fay scaled Mt. Rainier again in 1897 and also climbed Mt. Hood. Throughout her life she championed the capabilities of women and climbing.

*The Native Americans called the mountain "Tah-ho-ma. These tribes--Nisqually, Yakama, & Payallup--lived in the area for hundreds of years. A Native American woman possibly climbed the mountain before Fay, but there's no documented history.

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