American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Frances Mullen, 1902-1991

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992



Frances Mullen died on April 14 in Sherman Oaks, California of Alzheimer’s disease. She had been a member of the A AC since 1967 and was also an active member of the Chicago Mountaineering Club and the Sierra Club.

She received her Ph.B in mathematics in 1925, her M.A. in Education in 1929 and her Ph.D in Psychology in 1937, all from the University of Chicago. She joined the Chicago public schools in 1925 as a teacher and became a grammar school principal. She was Assistant Superintendent of the Schools for Special Education from 1953 to 1966. Thereafter, she had a private practice for psychological counseling, was editor of International Pychologist and President of the International Council of Psychologists.

Already in her childhood, Frances loved mountains, and with her father had climbed all of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire by the time she was ten years old. As an adult, whenever possible, with her husband and children, she hiked and camped in the mountains. Family responsibilities and a demanding career frustrated her desires for greater involvement in these outdoor activities. In 1953, Frances with some reluctance attended a Chicago Mountaineering Club outing to the Wind River Range. The joys of mountaineering that she experienced on that outing fulfilled latent desires and life took on a new meaning for her.

From 1953 until she moved to California in 1975, she was a regular attendant at local weekend outings, summer and winter. In 1956, she attended the Alpine Club of Canada Golden Jubilee outing at Glacier Park, British Columbia. In 1957, she climbed in the Alps. In 1958, she assisted the leader of the Sierra Club in scouting for a base near Huascarán in Peru. In various years, she scrambled over the Julian Alps of Slovenia, hiked around the Piz Bernina, hut-hopped in Norway above the fjords out of Stavanger and in 1971 traveled to Hunza and the Karakoram. For her, the greatest adventure was in 1965 when she made a five-week trek from Kathmandu to the Thyangboche Lamasery under Mount Everest.

In 1968, Frances purchased a Chevrolet van and starting in August drove with two friends from Le Havre, France overland to Calcutta, India by way of the mountains of Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Nepal. The following year, she drove the van along the Pan American Highway from Chicago to Lima, Peru and then to Huaraz to join the Iowa Mountaineers outing in the Cordillera Blanca.

She had an enormous appeal for all who met her and especially the young climbers who adored this lady of the mountains. Her van was more often than not filled to capacity with young people on outings to Devils Lake, Wisconsin or to some western outing. She had a distinguished professional career and achieved much in the field of special education programs. Her wisdom and influence have left the world a better place for many. Her friendship will be missed by all and in particular the mountaineering community.

George Pokorny

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