At a thrift shop in Astoria, I happened on a battered copy of Luree Miller's 1976 book on lady mountaineers in the late 19th and early 20th century,
(Tangentially related: on Salon this week, Sarah Hepola writes about the importance of independent travel for women: "The point of this ... is that I went by myself, and doing so made me wonder what else I could do alone." A different century, but much the same message. Make the journey, even if it seems (or is) foolhardy.)
I couldn't help but wonder whether some of the Victorian travelers' accounts were available online, and Google Books came through (as it often does). Fanny Bullock Workman's In the Ice World of the Himalaya: Among the Peaks and Passes of Ladakh, Nubra, Suru, and Baltistan, for instance, is in the public domain and available in full, offering fascinating views not only of the mountains themselves but of the people who populate them. The following photographs are from that book; her other works, such as Peaks and Glaciers of Nun Kun and The Call of the Snowy Hispar, also provide tantalizing glimpses into the past.
When we travel to India again next year, we're thinking about trying to spend some time in the Northeast; perhaps we'll answer the call of a snowy range ourselves. Until then, I'll have to live vicariously through the lives of fearless ladies traversing the globe in stays and skirts that swept the earth.