Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mount Abigail Adams?

The toponymy of the White Mountains is typically early American. The settlers who displaced the local Abenaki chose for the most part to honor political, scientific, and local leaders in the names that they bestowed on the peaks, rivers, and notches. A few landmarks reflect the physical landscape (Whiteface, Tripyramid), and a couple even commemorate indigenous leaders, though of Chocorua, Tecumseh, and Osceola, only the first was actually Abenaki.

Note how few females are memorialized in the landscape. By the 20th century, the Forest Service and local clubs began to name a few landmarks after women—the Dolly Copp Campground or the Kate Sleeper Trail, for example—but such monuments are still rare.

The paucity did not escape Bethany (Benny) Taylor, a former AMC croo member who is now finishing up grad school in Montana. Noting one of the peculiarities of the toponymy of the Presidential Range, she has proposed changing the name of the bump now known as Adams Four to Mount Abigail Adams.

Mount Adams, the second highest peak in the Whites, has several satellites, of which the two largest, John Quincy Adams and Sam Adams, are fairly well known, as the Gulfside Trail traverses past them on its way to Mts. Madison and Jefferson. Adams Four, which rises to the northwest of the true summit at the end of Nowell Ridge, is somewhat smaller. Along with its even more diminutive sibling Adams Five, it completes the Adams Family. While the use of numbers in the names of these nubbles perhaps adds a remote quality to the local landscape (think K2), Benny has espied an opportunity to add a little gender diversity to the Presidentials.

Abigail Adams is best-known of the early Presidential wives due to the survival of the prodigious correspondence that passed between her and her husband. David McCullough’s biography of John (not to mention the HBO miniseries that aired a year or two ago) brought a wave of attention to the relationship. Abigail is an easy woman to like, as her letters reveal a lively wit and an engaging intelligence. Additionally, she was outspoken in her opposition to slavery and advocated for women’s rights such as property ownership.

Benny submitted a proposal to rename Adams Four to Mount Abigail Adams a few months ago. If you favor the change, please write an email in support to the USGS. The relevant email is

1 comment:

Ari said...

I am very interested in the placenames of the White Mountains—they tell the region's history quite well. We should talk about this some time.

How's the snow?