Meet the Other Pearys

January 2011 Portland Magazine Issue

Extramarital trysts of national heroes no longer surprise Americans. From Monticello to the White House, our Founding Fathers, presidents, and (more recently) sports celebrities have made their legacies more, uh, complicated by having children out of wedlock. Despite these controversies, the life histories and memoirs of these so-called illegitimate descendants present fascinating new opportunities to reconsider the faded photos in our national scrapbook. Well, fascinating to me anyway.

What does this have to do with authors on Peaks Island? Although the Peaks Island Press blog usually features the “doings” of other island authors, I’m letting readers know that this month’s Portland Magazine has published some of my own writing. “Meet the Other Pearys” recounts how American Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary took an Inuit mistress in Greenland and how his American and Inuit descendants have reunited after many decades of separation and silence.

Robert E. Peary in furs. Library of Congress

This article draws from some of my long-term work on Josephine Diebitsch Peary (May 22, 1863 – December 19, 1955), wife of Robert E. Peary. Peary’s grandson, Edward Stafford, and great grandson, Hivshu, both generously shared family history with me.  North Pole Legacy: Black, White, and Eskimo by Allen Counter offered another essential source on this chapter of the history of American Arctic exploration.

Previously, I published “Snow Queen: A Woman in Full,” another Portland Magazine article that highlighted Josephine Peary’s contributions to her husband’s Arctic expeditions. This isn’t available online, but you can access a different article on Josephine that I published in the journal Arctic.

So get into the winter spirit by reading about the Arctic!

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