Ann Bancroft

Ann Bancroft is one of the world’s preeminent polar explorers and an internationally recognized leader who is dedicated to inspiring women, girls and audiences around the world to unleash the power of their dreams. In 1986, then a teacher, coach and wilderness instructor, Ann became the first woman to reach the North Pole by sled and on foot when she dogsled 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the Northwest Territories in Canada to the North Pole as the only female member of the Steger International Polar Expedition. In 1992 she led the first female team to ski across Greenland. In 1993, she led the American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole, a 67-day expedition of 660 miles (1,060 km) on skis by four women, thus earning her the distinction of being the first known woman in history to cross the ice to both the North and South Poles. In 2001, Ann and Norwegian polar explorer (and WINGS Fellow) Liv Arnesen became the first women in history to sail and ski across Antarctica’s landmass – completing a 94-day, 1,717-mile (2,747 km) trek.

Ann founded the Ann Bancroft Foundation (ABF) in 1991 to support the educational mission of the historic all-women’s Antarctic polar expedition in 1993. ABF was originally called the AWE Foundation (All Women’s Expedition) which produced curricula based on the expedition that reached more than 200,000 students worldwide. In 1997, the AWE Board of Directors and Ann decided that the Foundation would better achieve its mission by focusing on honoring and encouraging girls and women to reach, explore, and discover their own dreams and thus the Ann Bancroft Foundation was born. The vision of the reborn organization is for every girl and woman in the United States who dares to dream to have the support, inspiration, and resources that will help make their dreams come true. With Liv Arnesen, Ann also founded Bancroft Arneson Explore, a platform of experiential education programs and storytelling that engages and empowers over 60 million future minds to create a sustainable tomorrow.

Born: 1955

Hometown: Marine St Croix, MN

Education: B.S. Education

Occupation: Explorer/Educator

Expeditions: 1986 1st woman to North Pole across ice; 1992 led 1st American women’s team across Greenland; 1992/3 led Ist women’s team to South Pole, becoming 1st woman to cross ice to both poles; 2000/01 Ist woman to cross Antarctica, with Liv Arnesen; 1983 summit of Denali, Alaska; Ganges River from Source to Sea, and other Access Water Expeditions, with Liv Arnesen

Favorite Place: In wilderness

Best Discovery: Living in East Africa as a child and understanding there is a big wonderful world to travel

Favorite Item In The Field: Compass

Personal Hero: My older brother Bill

Hobbies: Carving spoons, watercoloring, being steward to my woods


Advice: Listen closely to what your heart tells you to pursue, and let it drown out the negative voices and step forward.

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