Happy 119th birthday to the “Snow Baby”!
In September of 1893, Josephine Peary gave birth to her first child while on an expedition in Greenland with her husband, Robert Peary. They named their daughter Marie Ahnighito Peary, her middle name after an Inuit woman in the community. It had been shocking enough to American society that Josephine, raised in an upper-class DC family, had accompanied her husband to the Arctic at all. A white child’s birth at the northern edge of the known world captured the popular imagination, and she became known as the “Snow Baby.”
Marie spent a good chunk of her childhood in the Arctic - she accompanied her mother on two major expeditions northward to track down her father, and was frozen in Payer Harbor off Ellesmere Island for ten months when she was seven. Josephine (and later Marie herself) recorded Marie’s early life in the Arctic in several popular books of the time. The Snow Baby again captured international attention when she was 16, as her father reached the North Pole in 1909, and the Peary family became celebrated worldwide.
In 1932, Marie (now married to Edward Stafford) returned to the Arctic to erect a monument in her father’s honor and to revisit the sites of her childhood. She continued to advise, write about, and research Arctic matters and her father’s expeditions for the rest of her life, and was awarded several honors. Marie died in 1978.
(Newspaper headline from the Dallas Morning News, 10-18-1903, page 42, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Historical Archive, accessed with NewsBank/Readex America’s Historical Newspapers archives.)