This girl did…. Dorothy Wordsworth - a pioneer among women walkers and mountaineers

Dorothy Wordsworth's account of her ascent overlaid on a backdrop of Scafell PIke

200 years ago, on October 7th, 1818, Dorothy Wordsworth climbed England’s tallest peak, Scafell Pike, with her friend, Mary Barker.

William Wordsworth’s sister became one of the first people to document the major achievement which, by the end of the 19th century, became a favourite among British climbers and mountaineers.

Her manuscript description of the climb, held at the Wordsworth Trust, in which she describes her friend, Mary Barker, as ‘an active climber of the hills’, is among the earliest surviving accounts of this feat.

Now an exhibition is being launched that reveals how Dorothy inspired people to find new ways of looking at mountains, and became one of the ‘inventors’ of mountaineering during the Romantic period.

‘This Girl Did’ (which runs from 1 September to 23 December) includes an exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust, a creative film that reimagines Dorothy’s climb 200 years on – to be premiered at Kendal Mountain Festival – and an exploration of Dorothy’s life that will result in new artworks and a celebratory ascent of Skiddaw.

One of the exhibition organisers, Dr Joanna Taylor, of Lancaster University’s History Department, who is researching women’s nature writing and Lake District literature, identified Dorothy Wordsworth’s pioneering achievement.

She said: “Dorothy’s account is remarkable, in that it is part of a rich tradition of early mountaineering about which we often forget: that is, women’s pioneering roles in advancing mountaineering and upland walking as recreational activities.

“Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Barker were two of many women who participated in the ‘invention’ of mountaineering during the Romantic-period.”

‘This Girl Did’ is a collaborative project between Wordsworth Trust and performers, artists and academics, who will explore Dorothy’s place in that history of women’s mountaineering through several mediums.

Using Dorothy’s 1818 account of climbing Scafell Pike as a starting point, this exhibition explores how Dorothy inspired, and continues to inspire, people to find new ways of looking at mountains: not about conquering the mountain, but the journey. This exhibition features Dorothy’s own manuscript letter describing her ascent of Scafell Pike, alongside contemporary creative responses.

The programme of events includes: a major exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust, including Louise Ann Wilson’s ‘Women’s Walks to Remember’ installation; a creative film by Jago Miller and Richard Berry, premiered at Kendal Mountain Festival, that reimagines Dorothy’s ascent of Scafell Pike on the bicentenary of her climb; an immersive creative exploration by Alex Jakob-Whitworth of Dorothy’s life that will result in new artworks, and in a celebratory ascent of Skiddaw on 29 September 2018. 




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