Historically, many of the great female athletes, adventurers, and outdoor industry pioneers were not always able to claim the title of both mother and athlete. Before the Industrial Revolution a woman had to choose between a life of adventure and great athletic success, or a life where she would be able to have a family.
Even as our times and technology have progressed, and opportunities for training and traveling have become more accessible for men and women alike, it can still be very difficult to raise a child and pursue physical and geographic extremes. This article highlights a few amazing women who have been able to be not only mothers, but also amazing pioneers for the outdoors.
Lynn Hill – Rock climber
Indisputably a living legend, Lynn Hill has been a pioneer in the sport of rock climbing and one of its greatest celebrities since the 1980s. She has accomplished many feats during her career: she was the first person to make a free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley, and has numerous 5.14s under her belt as well as first ascents on several continents.
Lynn always wanted to have a child, but because of the fast-paced and strenuous nature of her career, it took until she was 42 for it to happen. Pregnancy and having a child changed her relationship to her sport; with parenthood, and a passionate pursuit that took her all over the world, she found more of a need for balance and security.
“For me it has been quite a juggling act to manage all the demands on my time in both my personal and public life. But like climbing itself, the most challenging experiences are usually the most satisfying. Motherhood is certainly more challenging than any climb I’ve done, but there’s nothing greater than the sense of love I feel for my child.”
Junko Tabei – First woman to summit Everest
Junko Tabei was the first woman to summit Mount Everest.
“Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home…We were told we should be raising children instead.”
Junko was 35 when she summited Mount Everest with a 15-person, all-women Japanese team. She was able to leave her 3‑year-old child in the hands of her husband and family members in order to accomplish this feat.
Her ascent was a manifestation of her extreme determination and was also a symbol to many of the great strides forward that women of the era were making towards equality and autonomy.
Gert Boyle – President turned Chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear
When her husband died in 1970, Gert Boyle found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, with little to no business experience. Gert turned a financially struggling sportswear company into the behemoth outdoor industry that it is today. She spent 1970–1998 as President, enlisting the help of her son and other family members to help create her vision for the business.
One of the major turning points for the company was its clever add campaigns that featured Gert.
“We started advertising in 1984 with the Tough Mother campaign. In one, I put my son, Tim, through the car wash and said, ‘‘That’s the way we test our garments.’ Sales shot up. Tim took over as CEO in 1989.”
Through grit and tenacity, Gert charted the course for the success of her company and the security of her family. Talk about One Tough Mother (which is the title of her book)!