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The Discovery

Rediscovering the life of a 19th-century female mountain-climbing pioneer

“When I first saw this magnificent rock towering above me,” writes mountain climber, women’s rights activist, and lecturer Annie Smith Peck of the Matterhorn, “I was seized with an irresistible longing to attain its summit . . . to one who has a taste for rock climbing, no other mountain seems so inviting.” This sentiment, with its fearlessness and ambition, defines the life of the subject of Hannah Kimberley’s “A Woman’s Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers’’ (St. Martin’s). The Gloucester resident’s new book is a thorough look at a 19th-century mountain-climbing pioneer, a woman who defied the conventions of her time, a complicated and independent leader who has, until now, been mostly forgotten.