Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore: Renowned Author and Journalist
May 07, 2021
Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1856-1928) was an author, journalist, and the first woman to serve on the board of the National Geographic Society. Eliza first came to Alaska in 1883 after reading John Muir’s writings about his adventures in the North. Traveling by steamship, Eliza recorded her experiences in the first Alaska travel guide, published in 1885. Of Muir Glacier in the Tlingit region of Glacier Bay, Eliza wrote: “Words and dry figures can give one little idea of the grandeur of this glacial torrent flowing steadily and solidly into the sea, and the beauty of the fantastic ice front, shimmering with all the prismatic hues, beyond imagery or description.”
In addition to Alaska, Eliza traveled extensively throughout Japan. It was her advocacy that led to the planting of Japanese cherry blossom trees around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 1890, Eliza joined the newly formed National Geographic Society, serving as a writer, editor, photographer, and lecturer. Two years later, she became the first woman to serve on the board.
Eliza continued to write travel guides, catalogues, and articles on Alaska throughout her life, all of which became popular with the growing Alaska cruise industry at the turn of the 19th century.
Image credit: Anchorage Museum, FIC Collection, B2001.2.24