Saturday, March 31, 2012

Harriet Chalmers Adams ~ Explorer

Harriet Chalmers Adams (October 22, 1875 – July 17, 1937) was an American explorer, writer and photographer. She travelled extensively in South America, Asia and the South Pacific in the early 20th century, and published accounts of her journeys in the National Geographic magazine. She lectured frequently on her travels and illustrated her talks with color slides and movies.

In 1904, she undertook her first major expedition, a three-year trip around South America with her husband, Franklin Adams, during which they visited every country, and traversed the Andes on horseback. The New York Times wrote that she "reached twenty frontiers previously unknown to white women."

In a later trip she retraced the trail of Christopher Columbus’ early discoveries in the Americas, and crossed Haiti on horseback.

Harriet served as a correspondent for Harper's Magazine in Europe during World War I. Later she and her husband visited eastern Bolivia during a second extended trip to South America.

From 1907 to 1935, she wrote 21 articles for the National Geographic Society that featured her photographs, including "Some Wonderful Sights in the Andean Highlands" (September 1908), "Kaleidoscopic La Paz: City of the Clouds" (February 1909) and "River-Encircled Paraguay" (April 1933). She wrote on Trinidad, Surinam, Bolivia, Peru and the trans-Andean railroad between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso.

Harriet in the Gobi Desert
In her day, the National Geographical Society did not allow women as full members, so in 1925, she helped launch the Society of Woman Geographers, and served as its first president until 1933.

In all, she is said to have travelled more than a hundred thousand miles, and captivated hundreds of audiences. The New York Times wrote, "Harriet Chalmers Adams is America's greatest woman explorer. As a lecturer no one, man or woman, has a more magnetic hold over an audience than she."

Harriet died in Nice, France, in 1937, at age 62. An obituary in the Washington Post called her a "confidant of savage head hunters" who never stopped wandering the remote corners of the world. She is interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, CA. Of women as adventurers, she wrote:

"I've wondered why men have so absolutely monopolized the field of exploration. Why did women never go to the Arctic, try for one pole or the other, or invade Africa,Thibet, or unknown wildernesses? I’ve never found my sex a hinderment; never faced a difficulty which a woman, as well as a man, could not surmount; never felt a fear of danger; never lacked courage to protect myself. I’ve been in tight places and have seen harrowing things."

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