Mary Joyce #OnThisDay

On 26th of March 1936 Mary Joyce concluded a 1,000 mile journey by dog sled in Alaska.

portrait of Mary Joyce as a young woman
Portrait of Mary Joyce. [Alaska State Library, Mary Joyce Collection ASL P-459-491]

Pioneer, adventurer and entrepreneur, Mary Joyce is now commemorated in the Alaska Hall of Fame.

She was born in Wisconsin c1899, trained as a nurse in Chicago, Illinois. Then she moved onto Hollywood, California where she was engaged as a nurse for Leigh Hackley Smith, ‘Hack’, a WWI veteran. Together they ended up in Alaska running a property bought by his wealthy parents – the Taku Lodge. Hack died in 1934, aged only 37.

From then on life got even more interesting.

In 1935 Mary Joyce became the first female radio operator in Alaska operating it from the Lodge for the  Pacific Alaska Airways’ Juneau-to-Fairbanks flight.

That same year she set off with 5 dogs on a 1,000-mile, three-month overland trek to represent Juneau at the Fairbanks Winter Carnival. Being sensible and practical she did not do this alone but joined a Native Alaskan group guided by  Chocak Lagoose.

During World War II, Mary Joyce transported radio equipment for the Navy and taught survival skills to service men.

She returned to nursing in St Anne’s Hospital, Juneau. and became the owner of two saloons.

You can read more about Mary Joyce here: Mary Joyce: Alaska’s First Lady of Adventure

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