The role of pioneering female hillwalkers and climbers is often overlooked, but a new Wordsworth Trust exhibition celebrates their role during the Romantic period.

This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth & Women Mountaineers
1 September – 23 December
Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere

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

Dorothy’s 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. By the end of the 19th century Scafell Pike would be recognised as a favourite among British climbers and mountaineers.

Dorothy’s account is remarkable, too, 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 a recreational activity. Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Barker were among the many women who participated in the ‘invention’ of mountaineering during the Romantic period.

Using Dorothy Wordsworth’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.

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. The outcomes are:

  • 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;
  • A celebratory ascent of Skiddaw.

Jeff Cowton, Wordsworth Trust Curator & Head of Learning, and Dr Joanna Taylor have worked together to organise and curate the exhibition and coordinate the supporting events programme.

For more information, visit wordsworth.org.uk.

Header image: Delmar Harmood Banner (1896-1983), Scafell, Looking North, oil painting, 1945.