Mary Mark Ockerbloom (merrigold) wrote,
Mary Mark Ockerbloom

The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures

I'm extra happy to announce Celebration Edition #400!
"The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures."
By Josephine Diebitsch Peary, 1863-1955.
New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1901.
It seems suitable to release a book about living in the Artic for December :-)

In 1888, Arctic explorer Robert Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, the daughter of a linguist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As Peary's wife, Josephine accompanied her husband on three voyages to the Polar regions, as well as making two trips to Greenland to meet him on his return from additional expeditions.  In June of 1891 Josephine accompanied her husband and the small crew of the Kite to northern Greenland. They wintered in McCormick Bay, approximately midway between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. Josephine was a full partner in the expedition, tending strings of traps and hunting deer, ptarmigan, rabbit and walrus with the men, cooking for six men under primitive conditions, enduring the long, dark, frozen winters, and keeping morale high with grace and good humor. During her second expedition, September 1901, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie Ahnighito Peary. Marie's middle name honored the Eskimo woman who made the child's first fur suit. Known as the "Snow Baby", she was the most northerly born Caucasian child up to that time, born within 13-degrees of the Pole, high above the Arctic Circle and less than 800 miles from the Pole.

Josephine and baby Marie spent the winter in a two-room "house" on Bowdoin Bay. Josephine recorded the story of her daughter's birth in the high Arctic in photographs and anecdotes in "The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures."  The book is intended to be accessible to children, mostly likely to be read to them by a parent.  For all the serious detail it contains, it is written in a fairy-tale tone that can seem patronizing.   Underneath, one can occasionally glimpse the serious challenges that the writer experienced:

"Such a funny house it was where she was found. It was only one story high, the outside was covered with thick, black tarred paper, the walls were more than a foot thick, and there were lots of windows for such a small house, one wide one running right across the top of the house, just like a hot-house. This was to enable the inmates to enjoy the sunshine just as long as it lasted.  All round the house was a close veranda, the walls of which were built of boxes of food, biscuits, sugar, coffee, and tea; for none of these things, in fact, nothing but meat could be bought in the country."

Nonetheless, the visual record of life in the north that is revealed in the photographs and text is interesting and informative.  Read and enjoy the snow! 
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