Suffragist of the Month, January, 2020

Fanny Bullock Workman, 1859 – 1925

Fanny Bullock was born January 8, 1859 to Alexander Hamilton Bullock, who had served as governor of Massachusetts, and Elvira Hazard Bullock. Her childhood was one of privilege and she enjoyed a comprehensive education, both in the US and in Europe. At the age of 22 she married William Workman, a physician twelve years her senior. William was an avid mountain climber and explorer, activities Fanny began to share and enjoy.

When William retired they began in earnest their adventurous activities, exploring and reporting on the flora, fauna, people, and sights of Europe, Africa, and Asia. They traveled through the Mediterranean and near east, bicycling thousands of miles through Ceylon, Java and India. Along the way they made scientific observations on meteorological data – glacier changes, ice conditions, and physiological responses to altitude. At a time when women were expected to be solely wives and homemakers, Fanny left her daughter with nannies and set off to set altitude records for women, scaling the 21,000 foot Koser Gunga in Pakistan, the 23,300 foot peak of Nun Kun in the Himalayas, and in 1906 the 22,810 foot Pinnacle Peak in India.  Seemingly immune to altitude sickness, she climbed at a slow pace, while observing conditions around her. She and her husband wrote many books and magazine articles about their record-breaking adventures.

Fanny Bullock Workman was an outspoken advocate for woman suffrage, but not in the traditional way. She probably never marched or spoke at a convention, nor wrote an article promoting political equality for women. But devotion to the cause of equal rights for women was demonstrated by her daring, unconventional life style of mountain climbing and exploring, and her feminist determination to prove that women were equal to men in all things. In 1912 she was photographed at 21,000 feet on the Siachen Glacier in Karakoram, (near the India-Pakistan border) holding a newspaper with the headline “Votes for Women,” sending an indisputable message from the mountaintop around the world.

Fanny Bullock Workman was the recipient of many awards from Geographical Societies and was the first woman to lecture at the Sorbonne. She died in France in 1925.

Happy Birthday, Fanny Bullock Workman!

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