“Antarctic Pioneer” – How Jackie Ronne helped shape Antarctica | Polarjournal
Edith “Jackie” Ronne (1919 – 2009) was the first U.S. woman to set foot in Antarctica and also overwinter there. Together with her husband Finn Ronne, she led the “Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition” and continued to shape Antarctica and its development for a long time thereafter.

In the history of Antarctic exploration, the contribution of women has long been underreported. It is not only about the wives and women of the great Antarctic heroes like Scott, Shackleton or Amundsen who had stayed back home, but also about the pioneer women who, against all opposition, went directly to Antarctica to explore it as well. One of the most enigmatic figures certainly is Edith “Jackie” Ronne, whose life and work is illuminated in an exciting way by Dr. Joanna Kafarowski in her new book.

Edith “Jackie” Ronne was a thoroughly colorful personality who, with her husband Finn, had conducted the “Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition” between 1946 – 1948, exploring and mapping vast areas of West Antarctica. In doing so, Jackie was the first woman to winter in Antarctica, along with Jennie Darlington, and she was the first U.S. woman on Antarctic soil. And she wasn’t just the pretty, stylish woman at the expedition leader’s side. She worked just as hard as all the other members of the expedition and played a major role in making the expedition a great success and one of the great and important scientific contributions to the exploration of Antarctica in history.

The life of Jackie Ronne (here with husband Finne Ronne) was complex and exciting, not only as the wife of Finn Ronne, and it left a lasting mark on the history of Antarctica, which is beautifully presented in Dr. Joanna Kafarowski’s new book in a way that is well worth reading.

But to reduce Jackie Ronne’s life solely to her participation in the expedition would be a massive understatement. For she was more than just the first female overwinterer in Antarctica, and her life was enormously complex. This is exactly what the Canadian author of the newly published book “Antarctic Pioneer – The Trailblazing Life of Jackie Ronne” emphasizes. In 304 pages, she paints a very readable and exciting picture of a self-confident, versatile, and intelligent woman who not only stood behind her husband Finn Ronne, but was at least on equal footing with him and shared his loves and passion for Antarctica. Whether as a book author and speaker, as a scientific collaborator and expedition organizer, or as an advocate for an Antarctic treaty and polar tourism, Jackie Ronne excelled in many roles for the white continent. Kafarowski also shows the adversities such as envy and resentment and sexism that Jackie Ronne had to fight again and again, both alone and alongside her husband before, during, and after the expedition. The author cleverly manages to show why Jackie Ronne’s life was extraordinary for the circumstances of the time and how she managed to be accepted and even admired by society despite this view on women.

Throughout her life, Jackie Ronne held the helm. Her life and impact on Antarctica, as with many women in polar history, has long been downplayed and not given the attention they actually deserved. Dr. Joanna Kafarowski’s book now illuminates this aspect of Antarctic history in a factual yet exciting way.

For a long time, the contributions of women in polar exploration have not been recognized as they deserve. This is not least connected with the image of women, which unfortunately had been shaped by society until the recent past. That is why Dr. Joanna Kafarowski’s book is all the more important, as it shows that even at a time when the role of women was focused on home, children and hearth, there were shining exceptions. For in addition to Jackie Ronne, the author also shows other examples of female power such as Ronne’s aunt Merriel Pratt Maslin, one of the first female physicists in the “National Bureau of Standards” or Louise Arner Boyd, an influential polar explorer, both of whom played important roles in Jackie Ronne’s life. And the latter was portrayed in a separate book by Dr. Kafarowski in the same factual, detailed and readable manner. It shows that then, as now, women meet men in Antarctica on an equal footing and that Antarctica is not only a place of peace and research, but also of equality.

Production information

Title:Antarctic Pioneer – The Trailblazing Life of Jackie Ronne
Publisher:Dr. Joanna Kafarowski
Format:Paperback / pdf / ePub
Publisher:Dundurn Press
Number Pages:304
Size:L22.86cm x W15.24cm x D2.54cm
First publishingMay 20200
Edition1st edition

About the author:
Dr. Joanna Kafarowski is an independent scholar and geographer with a passion for researching, writing, and lecturing about women and polar history. She is the author of “The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd,” the first comprehensive biography of a polar explorer. She has also worked as a guest lecturer on ships to Greenland, Svalbard, Jan Mayen Land and Iceland. For many years, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in natural resource management and geography with a focus on gender and Arctic issues. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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