Women's History Month: Ann Bancroft
The month of March marks ‘Women’s History Month’, where we celebrate the contribution of women to society, culture and history (History.com Editors, 2022). Hence, it is only right that we dedicate this month to shining a light on various inspiring women who have contributed to Arctic science and exploration.
In the first post of this series, we will explore the life and contributions of Ann Bancroft.
Who is Ann Bancroft?
Ann Bancroft is an explorer from the Minnesota, United States who has no shortage of achievements to her name.
Some of her achievements include:
- Being the first woman to reach the North Pole by sled and on foot
- Being the leader of the first female team to ski across Greenland
- Part of a female duo who were the first women to complete a transcontinental crossing to Antarctica
(Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d)
Her determination and dedication truly know no bounds.
Source: Ann Bancroft Foundation (n.d)
But what led to these achievements, and what was this experience like?
In an interview with CGTN in 2017, Bancroft explained how, as a child, she dreamt of going to the North and South Pole, and when the opportunity came to go, she jumped at the chance. Speaking of the 52-day, 1000-mile expedition in 1986, Ann stated that the expedition (where temperatures dipped below -56°C) was the ‘hardest work she had ever done in her life’ and that she felt like quitting, but seeing the incredible views is what spurred her to carry on.
Bancroft explained that, working alongside 7 men and 49 male dogs, she felt a huge pressure to do something no woman had done before, and often felt conflict with her male explorers, stating they would often treat her differently than her male colleagues. Throughout this, Ann explained that teamwork, mental strength and a good attitude is just as important as physical strength when it comes to her expeditions.
These qualities are in addition to the conservation of resources. After just a third of the way into the 1986 expedition, the team had used up over half of their resources, resulting in the need to significantly lighten their load, forgoing equipment such as jackets, toothbrushes and sleeping bags (Schurke, 2011). This particular journey ended up being the first trek to reach the North Pole without no re-supplies (Antarctic logistics and expeditions, n.d).
Having given up a teaching post to go on her first expedition, Ann is first and foremost an educator and therefore she loves to combine exploration and education. Bancroft showed this during her Antarctic expedition in 2000 alongside fellow educator and explorer Liv Arnesen (both pictured below) where they shared their journey live with students across the globe through their website.
Source: (Liv Arnesen.com, n.d)
Climate change according to Ann
In an interview with Conservation Minnesota (2008), Ann described how the Arctic has changed since her expeditions in the 80s, stating that there is much thinner ice caps and more frequent fractures in the ice now compared to then. This feature meant Arctic explorers have sleds that often end up looking like canoes and the need for expedition clothes that are better adapted to the water.
Today, Ann Bancroft leads the ‘Ann Bancroft Foundation’, an NGO that empowers girls from Minnesota to pursue their dreams through mentorship and grants (Ann Bancroft Foundation, n.d) as well as the ‘Bancroft Arnesen Explore’ which emphasises access to clean water and a sustainable future (Bancroft Arnesen, n.d). This of course, is in addition to her continued role and passion as an educator.
Bancroft Arnesen explore (n.d.) Bancroft Arnesen Explore. Available at: https://bancroftarnesen.eco/
History.com Editors (2022) Women’s History month 2023, History.com. A&E Television Networks. Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month
Schurke, P. (2012) Remembering the North Pole Trek of 1986 – and looking forward to the anniversary celebration, MinnPost. Available at: https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2011/05/remembering-north-pole-trek-1986-and-looking-forward-anniversary-celebratio/
Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (n.d) Celebrating female polar explorers. Available at: https://antarctic-logistics.com/2010/08/28/ann-bancroft/ (Accessed: January 24, 2023).
Ann Bancroft Foundation (n.d) Home. Available at: https://www.annbancroftfoundation.org
CGTN (2017) Exclusive interview with female polar explorers. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMRB2IV-e98 (Accessed: January 24, 2023).
Conservation Minnesota (2008) Ann Bancroft: Polar Explorer, Minnesota Legend. Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNz9dvUzKJ8
Ann Bancroft Foundation (n.d). Untitled Photograph. Available at: https://www.annbancroftfoundation.org/about/ann
Liv Arnersen.com (n.d). Untitled Photograph. Available at: https://www.livarnesen.com/portfolio_page/photos-from-berlin/