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Dora Keen

Birthdate: (92)
Death: January 31, 1963 (92)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Williams Keen M.D. and Emma Corrina Keen M.D.
Sister of Corinne Keen

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Dora Keen

Dora Keen (1871–1963) was an American traveler and Alpinist, also a social and educational worker.

Early life

She was born in Philadelphia, a daughter of the surgeon William Williams Keen. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 1896, she held various positions in philanthropic organizations, in Philadelphia, including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the American Society for Labor Legislation, and the Society for Organizing Charity, helping to bring about important reforms.

Alpine climbing

In her travels she covered the North American continent from Alaska to Panama, both coasts of South America and the interior of the southern portion, eastern, western, and southern Asia and northern Africa; and she made numerous visits to Europe. Her activity as an Alpinist began with eight ascents of first-class peaks in the Alps in 1909-10. Starting with the opportunity to climb the Matterhorn, Keen traveled to Zermatt in the summer of 1909, where she climbed the Zinal Rothorn, the Monte Rosa, the Weisshorn, and the Matterhorn.

In the midsummer of 1911 her inadequately outfitted expedition, hastily organized for the ascent of Mount Blackburn (16, 140 feet) (4919 m) in Alaska, was unsuccessful, as the expedition wasted 4½ days trying to climb two different glaciers at the mountain base, compared with a total expected climb time of 12 days. Each effort was abandoned as avalanches had rendered the glaciers impassable. Keen returned early in 1912, with only local prospectors for companions, and accomplished the record first ascent of the mountain 19 May of this sub-Arctic peak. Out of 33 days which the party spent entirely on glaciers, for 20 they were without tents, sleeping in snow caves at low temperatures in extreme storms; and for 10 days they had only candles for fuel.


This expedition was immediately followed by a journey of 300 miles (483 km) on foot and by open, camp-built boat across the Alaskan wilderness to the Yukon River; for 125 miles (201 km) the route lay over Skolai Pass, which Miss Keen was the first woman ever to cross. In 1914, with three men, she made scientific observations of the glaciers of Harriman Fjord and College Fjord, Prince William Sound, Alaska, and made the first explorations of the Harvard Glacier, reaching its sources (6100 ft) (1859 m).

Miss Keen contributed numerous articles to popular and geographical magazines and lectured on her experiences. She became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London, in 1914.


Keen married George Handy on 8 July 8, 1916, in McCarthy, Alaska, within sight of Mount Blackburn. They settled in West Hartford, Vermont and operated a farm. The couple divorced after 16 years of marriage. Following the divorce Keen sold insurance products and continued to travel throughout the world. In 1962 Keen went on a world tour at age 91, including Alaska where she had not been since 1916. She died on this tour, in Hong Kong on 31 January 1963.

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Dora Keen's Timeline

January 31, 1963
Age 92