A New Year’s Tale: The Story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman

As a tribute to the new year, we’re featuring the story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman, a Hollywood couple who most assuredly would have hosted a rocking New Year’s Eve party.

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Charles Feldmand and Jean Howard, ca. 1935. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The story of Jean Howard and Charles Feldman lasts throughout Hollywood’s glamour period and though it was mostly enacted behind the scenes, the tale reveals a couple who had considerable influence over many of Hollywood’s luminaries; Howard as a photographer to the stars and Feldman as an agent and executive producer.

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Caption on the back of the photo reads: “Party at Charles Feldman’s house in Beverly Hills; L to R: Moss Hart, in foreground, Roger Edens, Dorothy Dandridge at piano, Michael Romanoff and Doe Averdon looking on.” Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

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Celebrity group posing at a lunch party at the home of actor Clifton Webb, 1950. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean Howard began a film career at eighteen, when her beauty and poise gained her a role in the last Ziegfeld Follies production. Recognition followed and brought her to Hollywood with an MGM contract.  She soon created sparks in Hollywood; MGM head Louis B. Mayer fell in love with her and proposed marriage, despite his reputation as a staunch family man. Instead, she married Charles Feldman, a young attorney just making his start as an actor’s agent. Although an angry Mayer did his best to scuttle Feldman’s career, the wily agent eventually became the town’s top talent broker. He handled the careers of Hollywood’s legendary stars, including Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. Later he branched out, becoming a film producer whose work brought forth some twentieth century classics such as Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, What’s New Pussycat and Casino Royale.

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Marilyn Monroe at Jean Howard’s home, 1954. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean and Charlie were a lively, good-looking couple, and their lives quickly became intertwined with those of the most celebrated film people: actors, writers, directors and studio executives. When her husband’s career was established, Jean decided to abandon acting in favor of her talent for photography. For her own amusement, she took innumerable photographs of the movie magnates and stars with whom she socialized. The candor and intimacy of these photos reveal another side to these celebrities, the most photographed people in the world.

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Marlene Dietrich and Ann Boyer Warner, ca. 1950. Jean Howard Papers, Acc. #10714, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Jean was a friend, and in her photos the stars are relaxed and off-guard – a far cry from the formal glamour portraits circulated by the studios. Despite their clashes and jealous rages, during and after their marriage, the two forged a personal and professional bond that lasted until Feldman’s death in 1968.

The American Heritage Center houses the Jean Howard collection which contains her famous photographs and negatives of Hollywood events and stars. Her partial list of Hollywood subjects includes Darryl Zanuck, Tyrone Power, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. Her non-Hollywood list includes Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jean Cocteau, Charles Feldman, Christopher Isherwood, and Noel Coward. There is also professional and personal correspondence related to her life as a photographer and to her ex-husband Charles Feldman’s business. There are biographical materials regarding her early acting career and notes related to her trips with Cole Porter.

 

Posted in found in the archive, Hollywood history, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, Photographic collections, popular culture, Uncategorized, women's history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Montgomery Ward Seizure

On December 27, 1944, the U.S. government seized control of properties belonging to Montgomery Ward, a successful department store retailer that had been in business since 1872.

Why you ask? We hope you’re asking…

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with ongoing labor strikes holding up production of material for the war effort. He created the National War Labor Board in 1942 to address this issue. The board negotiated labor issues to avoid strikes.

Sewell Avery, the chairmen of Montgomery Ward, refused to comply with the demands of unions and the War Labor Board’s order for compromise. “To hell with the government!” Avery yelled in April 1944 at Attorney General Francis Biddle, who had flown to Chicago in hopes of placating him. “I want none of your damned advice.”

Biddle ordered two National Guardsmen to lift Avery out of his office chair and carry him out of the building. “You … New Dealer!” Avery bellowed, referring to FDR’s Depression-era economic relief program. In an iconic photo, the two soldiers hold Avery in a sitting position, his arms crossed, as they remove him from the premises.

To circumvent a strike, President Roosevelt ordered Secretary of War Henry Stimson to seize Montgomery Ward’s plants and facilities in New York, Michigan, California, Illinois, Colorado and Oregon.

Advocates of Montgomery Ward argued their products were not essential to the war effort, as they supplied everything from car parts to clothing, but not weapons.

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“Government Order Balto. Ward Contract” Union poster, circa 1944, Montgomery Ward Records box 26, UW American Heritage Center.

As a federal judge deliberated over the legality of the seizure, the U.S. Department of Commerce nominally ran the company. Before a ruling could be handed down, however, the union completed its election and employees returned to work. On May 9, 1944, Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones returned the company to private management.

Avery feared an economic downturn after World War II and refused to give his employees pension plans or insurance and stopped expanding the company. Competing company Sears quickly overtook Montgomery Ward. The company never returned to its former success and finally went out of business in 2001.

The history of this iconic retailer can be found in the Montgomery Ward Records which are available at the UW American Heritage Center.

 

Posted in Economic History, found in the archive, Labor disputes, Montgomery Ward, Politics, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Uncategorized, War and emergency powers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Old-Time Saloon – Just History, for the Season

It’s the holiday season and you may be tempted to tipple a few beverages of the alcoholic variety. It seems like a good opportunity to provide you with a drinking story. Something you can relate to your friends as you lift a glass to the spirit of the season.

Prohibition is little discussed today except in history classes. But if you’re interested in the still relevant political arguments that led to Prohibition in the first place, read the 1931 book The Old-Time Saloon: Not Wet, Not Dry—Just History by George Ade (1866-1944). The American Heritage Center’s Toppan Library has a copy.

During the 19th century and early 20th century there were saloons aplenty, in fact it was not uncommon to find one saloon for every 150 to 200 Americans, including those who did not drink. Competition was fierce among saloon-keepers and some brought gambling and prostitution into their establishments to increase the profit margin.

As you can imagine, the religious community was not pleased with these developments. Groups such as the Anti-Saloon League led the charge to end the booze business. Prohibition leaders, called “drys”, believed that once license to do business was removed from the liquor traffic, churches and reform organizations would enjoy an opportunity to persuade Americans to give up drink. One result was that many communities in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries introduced alcohol prohibition. When the 18th amendment was ratified in 1919, prohibition supporters presented it as a victory for public morals and health.

Ade, a famous journalist and Broadway playwright, liked to drink as much as the next fella (unless that fella was a “dry”). He supported the movement to end the “noble experiment” of Prohibition.

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Illustration by Gluyas Williams on page 21 of Ade’s book. The illustration appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine.

In Old-Time Saloon, Ade provides his fellow Americans with a nostalgic look at saloon-life since many people in 1931 had never set foot in one due to age, gender, politics, or religion. He takes the liquor industry and saloon owners to task for complacency, flouting the law, and bringing on their own demise. To do this, he employs a parable involving a goat. Yes, that’s goat.

In the last chapter of the book, Ade writes,

Legend has it that, at about the beginning of the present century, a vagabond goat, of most bedraggled appearance and with the upholstery worn off at every corner, ranged through the alleys and by-ways of the redlight district of Chicago. He was tolerated and humored and indulged…The police hobnobbed with him and permitted him to butt small boys off the sidewalk…He was living in a goat’s paradise, the happy pet of wild women and midnight rounders. He was perfectly adjusted to his environment.

One day a flock of sheep came along 22nd Street and the goat fell in with his cousins, saying to himself, “I’ll stick along. This looks like a big party somewhere.” He didn’t believe he had an enemy in the world…So he rambled along with the gang, bleating cheerfully, and presently found himself in a long chute, with the crowd pushing from behind. He could not turn back. Being a natural-born goat he made no attempt to escape. Impelled by curiosity which is the only redeeming trait of all goats, human and otherwise, he passed into a slaughter-house. Next day, goat was being served for mutton…

Now, you ask, what does a goat have to do with a saloon in the pre-Prohibition era? As Ade explains,

The goat in the parable could not understand why any one should drive him up a chute and tap him on the head with a sledge hammer. The average low-brow saloon keeper could not believe that he was headed for destruction. He didn’t worry until the butcher cut him down—and then it was too late enter a protest.

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Illustration by Harold Tucker “H.T.” Webster on page 121 of Ade’s book.

There’s more to Ade’s story, of course. We suggest you take a look at the book. And, as you go to your local watering hole and lift a glass of your favorite craft beer, artisanal cocktail, or whatever, feel thankful that the goat was released from the chute in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed.

The Toppan Library is home to the University of Wyoming’s rare books collection, consisting of over 50,000 items and is sponsored by the Clara Toppan endowment. The majority of the materials are printed books, although there are newspapers, magazines, broadsides, illuminated manuscripts, and other materials. Collecting subjects include the American West, British and American Literature, Exploration and Travel, Religion, Hunting and Fishing, historic children’s books, and examples of the book arts. Some books are currently available through an online catalog search, while other books are available through a traditional card catalog located in the Toppan Library. Appointments are required. Please contact the AHC’s Reference Services to make an appointment at 307-766-3756 or ahcref@uwyo.edu.

Posted in Authors and literature, cartoons, Holidays, Journalism, Politics, Prohibition, rare books, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tales of a Zoologist

A professor named John W. Scott significantly boosted the University of Wyoming Zoology department. Professor Scott was the head of the Zoology department; he was the executive secretary of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, the State President and National Director for the Izaak Walton League, a member of the National Association of Conservation Education and Publicity, and a Masonic Mason. With all of John W. Scott’s achievements, he remained an icon to the University of Wyoming.

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National Convention of Mammologists, 1940, Box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

One of the tales prominent from Professor Scott’s life involves a beaver. Scott was given a beaver in 1935 by “H. W. Stock, the superintendent of the fish hatchery, who discovered the animal frisking about on the highway south of the Monolith one night last week.” Scott had then kept the beaver at his house for about a week as the Zoology labs found this beaver of great interest, and then Professor Scott released him back into the wild.

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Newspaper article from box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Another remarkable story from the John W. Scott collection involves a loon. As the story goes, in 1945, Scott found a loon near Laramie, which is an unusual since they’re not seen in that region. Loons can neither on land or fly off from solid ground, but, oddly enough, this loon made it ten miles outside of Laramie. The amazing part about this story is that this loon was possibly blown 400-500 miles off its course and ended up on the side of the road. Dr. Scott successfully returned it to a lake near Laramie.

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Newspaper article from box 1, John W. Scott papers, Accession #400093, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

John W. Scott had many accomplishments in his life such as celebrating his 80th birthday in 1951 to celebrating his marriage to his wife, Vivian, for 50 years in 1954.

Dr. Scott started working at the University in 1913; he was the head of the Zoology department for 28 years. He worked for the college for 43 years until his death in 1956.

To learn more about Scott, see the John W. Scott papers at the American Heritage Center.

– Post submitted by MaKayla Garnica, AHC Carlson Intern.

Posted in faculty/staff profiles, found in the archive, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming history, Zoology | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Wyoming Art of Carrie Arnold

Carrie Arnold (1944-1998) was a Denver business woman with an active interest in Western history, which she expressed in drawings. She became a pen and ink illustrator for a number of Western books. She was commissioned by her friend Bill Lagos to create scenes of Lagos’ home areas of Hartville and Sunrise, Wyoming.

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Miners standing outside Sunrise Hospital. Carrie Arnold papers, Accession #10664, Folder 22, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Between 1971 and 1997, Ms. Arnold created elegant line drawings that included overviews of Hartville and Sunrise, the old jail, the school, churches, the YMCA and historic homes. Her drawings also included depictions of Guernsey and Laramie.

The scenes are historical, taken from old photographs and enhanced by visits to the sites and conversations with Wyoming natives. Arnold always humanized the historically accurate drawings of buildings by adding people. “Main Street in Hartville, Wyoming” features a group enjoying a lively conversation in the middle of the quiet street. Lagos used the drawings as holiday cards.

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Main Street in Hartville, Wyoming. Carrie Arnold papers, Accession #10664, Folder 22, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

After Ms. Arnold’s death in 1998, Lagos published her drawings in a book entitled The Art of Carrie Arnold.

You can see Carrie Arnold’s work at the American Heritage Center. No appointment needed! The reading room is open Monday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM and Tuesday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Posted in Artists, Authors and literature, commercial art, found in the archive, Local history, mining history, Uncategorized, Western history, women's history, Wyoming history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

George Teeple Eggleston and the America First Movement

Before the United States entered World War II, there was a popular movement to keep the U.S. out of the fray. The controversial America First Committee (AFC), founded in September 1940, was the foremost U.S. non-intervention pressure group against American entry into World War II. George T. Eggleston (1906-1990), a cartoonist, author, yachtsman, editor and isolationist, became embroiled in the America First controversy during the 1940’s.

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Portrait of George T. Eggleston by Karl Godwin, 1950. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

From the late 1930s until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eggleston was very active in the America First movement with Charles Lindbergh. Eggleston edited Scribner’s Commentator, an ultraconservative magazine that helped lead the opposition to the United States’ entrance into the war in 1940 and 1941. The magazine’s format was about twenty digest-type articles, about half of which were devoted to nature stories and human-interest features.

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 George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

There was no mistaking, however, the fundamental focus of Scribner’s Commentator, which was to present the case against involvement in World War II in as many ways as possible. The cover featured a prominent foe of intervention – often Charles Lindbergh – with a laudatory biographical sketch or an article written by the individual frequently found inside. The magazine’s sister publication was The Herald, a weekly newspaper with the masthead: “The National Newspaper for an Independent American Destiny.”

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Subscription coupon for Scribner’s Commentator and The Herald from October 24, 1941, issue of The Herald. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

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An inside page of The Herald was always filled with photographs of prominent people involved in the debate over U.S. entry into World War II. This photograph compares America First’s main foe President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) with America First’s main protagonist Charles Lindbergh (right). The photo is from the September 19, 1941, issue of The Herald. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee canceled a rally with Lindbergh at Boston Garden “in view of recent critical developments,” and the organization’s leaders announced their support of the war effort. Scribner’s Commentator folded as well. The last issue, dated January 1942, featured General MacArthur on the cover and called for “the complete victory of our armed forces over those of our enemies all over the world.” Eggleston joined the naval reserve in 1943 but federal prosecutors took him before a grand jury and relieved him of his military commission.
Eggleston recounted some of the harassment against him in his book, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the World War II Opposition: A Revisionist Autobiography, published in 1979. He wrote about leaving the Navy after Walter Winchell, the syndicated columnist and radio commentator, urged Americans to start a letter-writing campaign demanding his removal from the service. It wasn’t until after World War II, when the passions of the period had cooled, that Eggleston was able to get an honorable discharge.
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Walter Winchell column about Eggleston that appeared in the December 20, 1943 issue of the New York Daily Mirror. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

After World War II, Eggleston went on to become editor at Reader’s Digest. He left Reader’s Digest in 1957 and he and his wife moved to St. Lucia in the West Indies. He authored a number of books, mostly about travel, after just before and after leaving the Digest

Eggleston’s papers include files of correspondence, clippings, and comments on Charles Lindbergh and his role in the America First movement. There is a xerox copy of a 1972 letter from Lindbergh and many clippings concerning America First activities.

Portions of this post were excerpted from “Scribner’s Commentator, 1939-1942” by Justus D. Doenecke in The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America (1999), edited by Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton.

Posted in Artists, Authors and literature, cartoons, commercial art, found in the archive, Journalism, Politics, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged | Leave a comment

No Mountain Too High: The Climbs of Betsy Cowles Partridge

Three years before Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Nargay made their famous ascent of Mount Everest in 1953[1], Elizabeth “Betsy” Cowles Partridge, an intrepid woman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, was part of an American Expedition exploring a route to conquer the world’s tallest peak.

It appears that Betsy Cowles Partridge had mountaineering in her blood. Born in 1902, she had climbed 54 of the peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado by the age of 31. From the Alps of Europe to the Rocky Mountains of North America, Sierra Nevada of South America to the Himalayas of Asia, Betsy traveled the world tackling some of the world’s highest peaks. Whether as a climber, photographer, author, and in later life lecturer, it seems that no mountain was too high for Betsy on her way to Everest.

With its towering mountains and beautiful valleys Switzerland held special significance for Betsy throughout her travels. After the peaks of Colorado, the peaks of Switzerland were the first of the great mountains that Betsy would climb. She first traversed[2] the famous Matterhorn, along with numerous other peaks, in 1933. Between 1936 and 1937 Betsy climbed 21 of the peaks of Switzerland, including her second accent of the Matterhorn, this time traversing from the village of Zmutt.

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The Matterhorn at its finest; Swiss Ridge on the left, Zmutt Ridge on the right. Betsy Cowles Partridge papers, Accession #2082, Box 2, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Betsy would return to Switzerland six more times over the course of her life to climb the striking peaks of the Alps. Switzerland not only gave Betsy the rewarding experiences of climbing, but also lifelong friendships. It was here that Betsy met the famous pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, a friendship that lasted the remainder of Betsy’s life.

Living in Colorado Springs, Betsy was no stranger to the formidable peaks of the Tetons, mountains that Betsy thought were “designed especially for climbers by a Providence sympathetic to mountaineering.” At the age of 32 Betsy made her first ascent of Grand Teton in 1934. In 1935 Betsy was the first female to traverse the Grand Tetons.

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The “Grand” and its neighbors. Betsy Cowles Partridge papers, Accession #2082, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Betsy returned to the Tetons twice more before her expedition to Mount Everest. In 1941 Betsy made the first ascent of Grand Teton’s Petzoldt Ridge. In 1956, at the age of 44, Betsy climbed Grand Teton, Symmetry Spire, and Mount St. John. This would be the last time that Betsy climbed the peaks of the Tetons.

In her quest to climb the great peaks of the world Betsy also traveled to Colombia to tackle the peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Range. It would not be an easy jaunt as the year was 1941 and the world was in turmoil with the start of the Second World War. The choice to make a climb while the world was at war did not come easily, but she decided that if she did not go then, she probably never would. Betsy had to go through the American Consulate to acquire special permission from the Colombian government to bring her photographic equipment along for the climb. With official permission and equipment in tow, Betsy was part of the team that made the first ascent of La Reina Peak (18,170 feet) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Range. Betsy also climbed Pico Ujueta and the Guardian.

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On the peak of La Reina, left to right: Paul Petzoldt, Max Eberli, and Elizabeth Knowlton. Betsy Cowles Partridge papers, Accession #2082, Box 2, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In 1950 Betsy had the opportunity of a lifetime when she was invited by Oscar R. Houston to join his American Expedition to Mount Everest. The expedition went to scout if a possible ascent on the peak could be made from the southern slope through Nepal. All her previous experience had prepared Betsy for this historic expedition. On the journey to the southern slope Betsy traveled through Kathmandu, meeting Mohun, the last reigning Maharajah of Nepal. At the Thyangboche Monastery, Betsy was the first American woman to witness the rites of the monks. The Houston expedition reached a height between 18,000 and 19,000 feet in the exploration to find a viable route.

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Houston Expedition, left to right: Anderson Bakewell, Oscar R. Houston, Elizabeth “Betsy” S. Cowles, H.W. Tilman, and Charles S. Houston. Betsy Cowles Partridge papers, Accession #2082, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Betsy and other members of the expedition determined that the south face “may well be impossible” and presented “no practical climbing route.”[3] While the expedition was not successful, they did contribute to the history of climbing of Mount Everest. Betsy recorded her experience through a round robin letter with family and friends in America. After the Houston expedition Betsy toured the country lecturing and delighting crowds with the color slides.

For more reading about the fascinating life of Betsy Cowles Partridge visit the American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming to view Betsy’s diaries, photographs and letters to experience through her eyes. For Betsy Cowles Partridge truly no mountain was too high.

– Submitted by Steven Yeager, AHC intern from the UW History Department.

[1] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Sir Edmund Hillary,” Encyclopaedia Britannica

[2] According to sportsdefinitions.com, traverse in mountain climbing refers to ascending a mountain from one side and descending another, or moving sideways across a mountain face.

[3] “North to Everest,” short essay written by Robert Tillman found at the beginning of Betsy Cowles Partridge journal in box 3 of her papers. Tillman was another explorer who met the Houston Expedition while he was in Nepal.

Posted in found in the archive, Grand Tetons, International Collections, Mountaineering, Uncategorized, women's history | Tagged , | 1 Comment