Sunday, March 18, 2012

Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed (aka Aubrey Le Blond) ~ Mountaineer

Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed (1860 - July 27, 1934) was a British pioneer of mountaineering in a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman to climb mountains. She was also an author and a photographer of mountain scenery.

She came from an upper class background, being the only child of Captain Sir St Vincent Hawkins-Whitshed, 3rd Baronet and Anne Alicia Handcock and was descended from the aristocratic Bentinck family, therefore related to the Dukes of Portland. Elizabeth was born in London, but grew up in Greystones, County Wicklow in the southeast of Ireland, where her father owned quite a bit of land. Her father died while she was still a minor, and the Lord Chancellor took her on as his ward.

Elizabeth moved to Switzerland, where she climbed mountains and scandalized society by climbing in trousers although she wore a skirt over them, removing it only on the higher slopes.

She married three times: in 1879, to Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (died 1885); in 1886, to John Frederick Main (died 1892); and in 1900, to Francis Bernard Aubrey Le Blond. From her first marriage, she had a son Harry Burnaby (1880). Despite her second and third marriages, the lands at Greystones that she had inherited from her father (before marriage) were to be known as the Burnaby Estate.

Elizabeth published accounts of her climbing under the names Mrs. Fred Burnaby, Mrs. Main, and Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond. As Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond she made at least 10 films of alpine activities in the Engadine Valley of Switzerland, including ice hockey at St Moritz and tobogganing on the Cresta Run. She is probably among the world's first three female film-makers, after Alice Guy and contemporary with Laura Bayley. Her films were shown by James Williamson at Hove Town Hall in November 1900, being included in his catalogue in 1902, and were praised by the film pioneer Cecil Hepworth and the writer E.F. Benson.

In 1907, she became the first president of the Ladies Alpine Club. She wrote seven books on mountain climbing and over her lifetime climbed twenty peaks that no one had climbed before. Her autobiography, Day In, Day Out  was published in 1928.

1 comment:

  1. Good evening,

    I am a student of the University of Warwick in England. I have to do a research and a wiki entry on Elizabeth Main, especially the Handbook she wrote when she travelled to Spain: "Cities and Sights of Spain: A Handbook for Tourists (1899) 1904 edition"
    Do you know something about it? Besides, can you tell me where did you find all these information?

    Many thanks.

    Kind regards,