Adventurous Knitters Who Blazed the Trail
Welcome to the Amazing Adventures edition of Knitting Traditions! It’s all about explorers and adventurers–some were attempting to reach the North or the South Pole, others to circumnavigate the globe. Not all of them were men.
In her article, “Knitwear for Polar Explorers,” Angharad Thomas examines the exploits of a number of famous explorers, including Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton. She notes, “To study accounts of polar exploits is to become overwhelmed by the descriptions of the harshness of the physical conditions the expeditions encountered.”
Two American women who experienced those conditions firsthand were Josephine Peary and Jackie Ronne. Josephine Peary first traveled with her husband, Robert Peary, to the Arctic in 1891. Author Kathy Augustine writes, “[Josephine] forged ahead on a path of unyielding support for her husband, whether by his side in the frozen north or from the warmth of her parlor where she entertained sponsors.” In 1947, Jackie Ronne became the first American woman to reach Antarctica, with knitting needles and yarn in tow. For twelve months, she and her husband, expedition leader Finn Ronne, lived in a 12-foot (3.7-m) square hut.
And then there is the simply incredible Jeanne Baret. Author Laura Ricketts sets the stage: “Jeanne Baret (1740–1807) was a woman of many names and multiple facets. In December 1766, in Rochefort, France, Jeanne Baret (sometimes spelled Baré) boarded the Étoile, a four-deck ship, along with 115 others. The ship was part of an expedition to circumnavigate the globe led by Captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729–1811). While on board, she was known as Jean Bonnefoy, valet and manservant to the expedition’s botanist, Philibert Commerson (1727–1773).” And she managed this for sixteen months. She also would discover “the flowering vine in Brazil that Commerson would name ‘bougainvillea’ after the captain of the expedition. . . .”
This is just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended!). Many other compelling stories and twenty-one stand-out projects–socks, sweaters, mittens and gloves, hats and balaclava, a scarf, and a shawl–await you.