May 4th in (Feminist) History

manasluOn this day in 1974, an all-female Japanese team reached the summit of Manaslu, which is the eighth highest mountain in the world, located in Nepal as part of the Himalayas. This successful expedition made them the first women to climb an 8,000 meter peak. The team was led by Kyoko Sato and the full expedition included Mrs Tsune Kuroishi, Mrs Naoko Nakaseko, Michiko Sekita, Mrs Masako Uchida, Mieko Mori, Masako Itakura, Mutsumi Nakajima, Teiko Suzuki (who died during the expedition), Tomoko lto, Shizu Harada and Naoko Kuribayashi, along with a group of Sherpas. The first actual group to reach the summit, however, was Kyoko Sato, along with Naoko Nakaseko, Masako Uchida, Mieko Mori, and Jambu Sherpa.

There’s unfortunately not a lot of information about this journey outside of the bare sketch of facts (side-eyes internet), but I did manage to find a first-hand retelling by one of the expeditionists, Naoko Nakeseko. Her story tells of the entire journey, from the planning to the failed attempt and later successful attempt, where she reaches the top with her group of women, and says: “What could be the fascination which has gone on drawing us up here, enduring severe wind and snow, for nearly 20 years? Relief welled up in my heart. […] How could I express my delight that I had climbed and come as high as this place where my countrymen first trod.”

Despite the group’s success, they did lose one woman later the next day. Teiko Suzuki was attempting to climb from camp 4 to camp 5, despite the strong snow, when she was lost. They did not find her body and were forced to retreat due to the weather, but erected a cairn in her memory on a hill with a view of the mountain she had climbed with them.

Also on this day:

  • In 1898, the birth of Captain Joy Bright Hancock, one of the first women officers in the U.S. Navy. She served in both World War I and World War II. She was commissioned in the Women’s Reserve, and her promotion to the rank of captain after just 6 years of service was one of fastest progressions to that rank in the history of the Navy.
  • In 1907, the birth of Mary Hallaren, who was the first woman to officially join the US Army (prior to her, women had joined in secret by pretending to be men). She was director of the women’s Army Corps, as well as the recipient of the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal. She was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
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