Leader of female expedition relates experiences of sexism

Raiza Beltran

Ann Bancroft, a Minnesota native and the first woman to cross the North and South poles, shared her experiences with an audience of more than 1,000 — primarily women and girls.
“My classroom has been the ends of the globe; I learned tremendous lessons,” Bancroft said Tuesday night in a packed Hubert H. Humphrey Center auditorium. “In the Arctic Ocean, much unfolded for me.”
Picked to be in an expedition team to travel to the North Pole in 1986, the former gym teacher and coach said that she joined a group of seven men and nine dogs.
Bancroft said she didn’t consider her gender to be an issue until the media began calling her “physically smallest in the team.”
During the expedition, Bancroft said that an injured team member needed to be taken home. Bancroft added that the media immediately assumed she was injured.
The explorer said the subtle experiences with sexism finally opened her eyes.
In 1993, Bancroft lead an all-women’s expedition to the South Pole. “Unlike the previous North Pole expedition, this one had a ‘soul’,” Bancroft said.
Unfortunately, the four-member American Women’s Expedition had difficulty financing the journey but ultimately reached the South Pole, coming home $400,000 in debt. Finishing the cross-continent trek would have meant another $350,000 they didn’t have.
“These amazing experiences forced me to face the attitudes and barriers,” she said. “It called up my strength internally and externally.”
Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and named Ms. Magazine’s “Woman of the Year,” Bancroft will again lead the first all-women expedition team to cross Antarctica in November 2000.
Bancroft was invited by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport as part of the Borghild Strand Distinguished lecture Series. The Tucker Center is part of the College of Education and Human Development.

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.