Continued from Mountain Woman Part 1, August 5
Believing that women ought to share the responsibilities as well as the rights of men, Julia requested to take her turn at the night watch, but was refused. She wrote of the guard master, “He believes that woman is an angel without any sense, needing the legislation of her brothers to keep her in her place, that, restraint removed, would immediately usurp his position and no longer be an angel but unwomanly.”
After a journey of about a month, the wagon train reached the foot of the mountains near present-day Colorado Springs and set up camp. Above them loomed Pikes Peak, which had been named for U.S. Army officer Zebulon Pike, who had come upon it in 1806, tried to climb it, and failed. (“No human being could have ascended to its pinacle [sic],” he wrote.) Despite his failure, the mountain was named for him, giving him an A for effort. In 1820 a group of government explorers finally made it to the top.
On August 1st, 1858, Julia Holmes, her husband, and two other men set out to climb Pikes Peak. The four of them carried heavy packs with food and bedding, as well as writing materials and a volume of Emerson, whom Julia admired. They had a difficult time of it, misjudging the route (no trails! no friendly National Park Service blazes!) and once running out of water. But each night, as they camped among snow-covered rocks or beside waterfalls or in a nest of spruce branches, Julia described her impressions in her journal.
When they finally reached the 14,110-foot peak on August 5th, they wrote their names on a boulder (tsk, tsk). Then Julia read aloud to the group a poem by Emerson, and stretched out upon a broad flat rock to write letters to her friends. (“Hi! You’ll never guess where I am!”) Her Pikes Peak climb gave her the nickname “Bloomer Girl.”
After that the party separated for various destinations. When Lincoln was elected President, Julia’s husband was appointed Secretary of the Territory of New Mexico, where Julia became a correspondent for The New York Tribune. She had four children, only two surviving to adulthood. Afterward they moved back East and eventually to Washington DC, where they divorced (mysteriously, and unusual for the time), and she—now a bilingual Spanish speaker—worked as chief of the Division of Spanish Correspondence for the Bureau of Education.
Like her mother, she was active in the women’s suffrage movement. After women in Wyoming and Utah Territories gained the right to vote in 1869 and 1870, women suffragists elsewhere showed up at their polls to vote, in a combination of optimism and protest; Julia Archibald Holmes is on record as one of 73 women who in 1871 made the attempt (unsuccessfully) to register to vote in Washington, DC.
As far as we know, she never climbed another geographical mountain, but she certainly scaled several metaphorical ones.