For years, the indigenous women who accompanied explorer Robert Peary partway on his trips to the North Pole have been overlooked by history.
But Genevieve LeMoine, curator of the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center at Bowdoin College, and Susan Kaplan, Bowdoin professor of anthropology and director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, have provided a detailed look at the Inughuit women who participated in Peary’s Arctic journeys.
Arctic Deeply recently interviewed LeMoine about the article, “Living on the Edge: Inughuit Women and Geography of Contact,” published by the Arctic Institute of North America, and written by LeMoine, Kaplan, and Christyann Darwent of University of California, Davis.
Peary hired several Inughuit families from Greenland to join him on his treks to make the most of the local people’s knowledge of the inhospitable environment. In particular, he wanted the women to sew clothing for his crew.
“You can never underestimate the importance of clothing up there. As you can imagine, it’s never very warm, and you always need clothes to keep you warm and dry. They have to be – and they are – very well designed, well engineered, and of course well sewn,” LeMoine says in the interview.
During Peary’s two attempts to reach the North Pole, he stopped at the remote and barren Ellesmere Island, where he left the women behind to carry on just with men. Though the women were resilient, LeMoine says this experience was considerably stressful for them.