American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Julia Grinnell, 1888-1960

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961



Love of the outdoors was foremost among the many attributes of Julia Grinnell. She loved to travel, too, and travel she did to many countries of the world to take part in mountain climbing, white-water canoeing and ornithological expeditions.

Her life had many interesting facets. She was born a New York Stater, then spent many winters in Palm Beach where her father was rector of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. She was in New York after the first World War broke out and used her training as a dietitian to go with the Y.M.C.A. to France and later to Germany with the armed forces. Back in New York she had a busy social and business life. In 1922 she joined the New York Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, becoming a strong and popular walker. Later she became Secretary of the Chapter. She also joined the hardy Bemis Crew on winter climbs in the White Mountains. The Canadian Rockies then claimed her attention where she climbed Victoria, Lefroy, Temple and others. In the Swiss Alps, Julia showed herself to be a fine mountaineer on many climbs including the Matterhorn and the Grépon.

She was a most sociable person and her kind, warm, understanding personality endeared her to everyone. At her home in Ithaca, New York, she was associated with many civic organizations, serving at one time or another as president of the Women’s Overseas League and American Women’s Voluntary Services in their local chapters, and president of the Women’s Alliance of the First Unitarian Society and of the Garden Club of Ithaca.

At an age when most people are thinking of retiring to less active hobbies Julia, as a partner with her husband Lawrence, engaged in a series of field trips involving ornithology and white-water canoeing which continued to the end of her life. On behalf of ornithology she acted as a camera assistant to her husband on trips to wild and out of the way areas of North, Central and South America, the West Indies, Africa, New Zealand and Australia. On the latter two trips she served with Lawrence as Research Associate of the Laboratory of Ornithology of Cornell University.

Wishing to share their good fortune with others they were always ready to show their beautiful bird pictures to interested groups. They must have traveled thousands of miles in doing this.

Canoes were a life long joy to Julia. She came by this love naturally, I think, because her father was one of the first members of the American Canoe Association. As a girl she canoed on the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie rivers in New York and on Lake Work in the winters at Palm Beach. After her marriage she acted as bow paddler for her husband on trips that were to cover a great many of the canoeable rivers in the northeastern United States, some in the west, and some in Europe. These trips continued over a period of more than twenty-five years, totalling some nine thousand miles. Only last summer she was one of a group who canoed down the beautiful Current River in Missouri.

E. L. Woolf

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