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Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Awardees Edith

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Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame

Edith “Jackie” Ronne, Polar Explorer and Geographer (1919 – 2009)

Nominated by Dr. Joanna Kafarowski

Edith “Jackie” Ronne (RON-ee) was a polar explorer, writer and Antarctic authority. She was the first female member of an Antarctic expedition, the first American woman to visit Antarctica and one of the first two women to overwinter there.

Ronne was a true daughter of Maryland with strong family ties to the state. Her mother’s family, the Parletts, lived in Baltimore for over a century while her father’s family lived in Havre de Grace for generations. She spent her early years in Baltimore and, as a teen, lived with her aunt and uncle in Chevy Chase. A 1928 graduate of Goucher College and one of the first female physicists employed by the National Bureau of Standards, Merriel Maslin Gardner had a significant influence on her niece. Ronne attended Eastern High School in Baltimore and graduated from George Washington University in 1940. She was a lifelong resident of Maryland and lived in Bethesda for over 50 years.

Ronne worked for the Department of State, but her life focused on Antarctica. She was an active volunteer committed to geographic and scientific organizations including the Society of Woman Geographers for which she served as its President from 1978 to 1981, the Antarctican Society, the American Polar Society, the National Society of Arts and Letters and the Explorers Club, amongst others.

One of her most notable accomplishments was participating as a vital member of the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (1946 – 1948). During the 18 months the team spent in Antarctica, she was the official communications expert, media liaison and historian. Ronne wrote or edited all articles about the expedition and was also the assistant geophysicist, chief advisor to her husband and counsellor to the team. Initially, the 20 male team members bitterly opposed her inclusion on the team and were appalled to learn that Ronne would take over as leader if something were to happen to her husband during the voyage. This scientific expedition was hugely successful as it gathered critical data and created new maps of Antarctica’s coastline and proved that Antarctica is one continent. A significant geographic feature, “Edith Ronne Land,” was named in her honor, and later, upon further discoveries, was renamed “Edith Ronne Ice Shelf,” and later the “Ronne Ice Shelf” – a rare honor for a woman of non-royal birth. In 1964 Ronne was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal.

For more than four decades, Ronne wrote and lectured about Antarctica. She was a fierce defender of the legacy of her explorer husband, Finn Ronne, and a keen political strategist, advocating for American support of the first Antarctic Treaty. In 1971, she and her husband were flown by the U.S. Department of Defense to the South Pole to commemorate its discovery 60 years earlier. An early pioneer in Antarctic tourism, she was an invited lecturer on many Antarctic expedition and cruise ships. In her lifetime, she made a total of 16 trips to Antarctica.

In 2004, she signed the prestigious American Geographical Society Fliers’ and Explorers’ Globe – an honor granted only to the world’s leading explorers and aviators.
An inspiring mentor to female explorers, she assisted many through her philanthropic work. The Finn Ronne Memorial Award (Explorers Club) and the Ronne Award for Antarctic Research or Exploration (Society of Woman Geographers) were established by Ronne to help Antarctic scientists and explorers.
Ronne’s work as an Antarctic pioneer paved the way for other women who would work in, explore and make policy decisions about Antarctica far into the future.

“Almost despite myself, I had become a true Antarctican. I was the first woman to overwinter as a member of a pioneering Antarctic expedition.” – Edith “Jackie” Ronne

Full biographies are displayed online at the at the website of the Maryland State Archives at

A physical exhibit of all the honorees is displayed on the campus of
Notre Dame of Maryland University

Maryland Commission for Women
51 Monroe Street, Suite 1034
Rockville, Maryland 20850