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VAUX, Mary Morris (Walcott)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1860
Saint Andrew's, New Brunswick, 1940
Biography synopsis
Vaux was raised a Quaker, learning a strong appreciation for natural wonders from her father. Her family often spent the summer in the Canadian Rocky mountains, exploring and documenting the wilderness they found there. In 1913, Vaux met Charles Doolittle Walcott--then secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington as well as an eminent geologist and paleontologist--and eagerly aided him in his research. They were married after an accident claimed Walcott's first wife. During her time in the Rockies, Vaux also became good friends with Mary Schaeffer Warren--another artist enamored with nature. Vaux has written extensively about her love of the outdoors writing that nothing could compare with "a day on the trail, or a scramble over the glacier, or even with a quiet day in camp to get things in order for the morrow's conquest." Among her exploits, Vaux was the first woman to accomplish the over 10,000 feet ascent of Mount Stephen in the Rockies. Combining her love of nature and science, Vaux produced over 1000 watercolors of wild flora which were eventually published by the Smithsonian and numerous photographic record of glaciers which are still used in comparative analysis today. Beyond being useful documents, her photographs show wondrous, intimate and humorous scenes from her many adventures. Vaux's contribution and overwhelming love for the Rockies is immortalized by a mountain in Jasper Park that bears her name.
Media used
File & Archive locations
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, AB - Archives & Library
Smithsonian Institution, DC - Archives of American Art
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON

Writings about
"Beauty's a Flower" New York Times 27 Dec. 1953: BR15
"Illecillewaet Glacier, Whyte Museum" Calgary Herald 26 Jan. 2007: SW38
"Mary M. Vaux: A Picture Journal" The Burgess Shale 2011
"Mary Morris Vaux Walcott" Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014
"Mary Schäffer and Mary Vaux: Hunters of Knowledge and Peace" Women Adventurers in the Rockies Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, 2011
"Mrs. C. D. Walcott Dies in Nova Scotia" New York Times 25 Aug. 1940: 36
Brown, Douglas A.. "The Modern Romance of Mountaineering: Photography, Aesthetics and Embodiment" The International Journal of the History of Sport 24.1 (2007): 1-34
Cavell, Edward. Legacy in Ice: The Vaux Family and the Canadian Alps Banff, Alberta: Whyte Foundation, 1983
H. W. Y.. "Mary Vaux Walcott" Science 92.2391 (25 Oct. 1940): 372-373
Henson, Pamela M.. "Invading Arcadia: Women Scientists in the Field in Latin America, 1900-1950" The Americas 58.4 (Apr. 2002): 577-600
Huneault, Kristina. I'm Not Myself at All: Women, Art, and Subjectivity in Canada. Montreal; Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018
Jones, Marjorie G.. "Bowling Along: Early Travel Adventures of Mary Morris Vaux" Quaker History 100.1 (2011): 22-39
Koltun, Lilly ed. Private Realms of Light: Amateur Photography in Canada 1839-1940. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1984
Laviolette, Mary-Beth. A Delicate Art: Artists, Wildflowers and Native Plants of the West. Vancouver: Rocky Mountain Books, 2012
McLoone, Margo. Women Explorers of the Mountains: Nina Mazuchelli, Fanny Bullcock Workman, Mary Vaux Walcott, Gertrude Benham, Junko Tabei Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Books, 2000
Milliken, Katherine. Quakers in Nature: The Vaux Family's Photography of Mountains and Glaciers Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta, 2005
Moser, Joann. "American Drawings and a Few Surprises at the Smithsonian American Art Museum" Master Drawings 42.2 (Summer 2004): 125-132
Skidmore, Colleen. This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2006
Smith, Cyndi. Off the Beaten Track: Women Adventurers and Mountaineers in Western Canada. Canmore, Alberta: Coyote Books, 1989
Squire, Shelagh J.. "In the Steps of 'Genteel Ladies': Women Tourists in the Canadian Rockies, 1885-1939" Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien 39.1 (1995): 2-15
Struzik, Ed. "Mountain Women: Their Proud History: Skirting the gender barrier, ignoring criticism from their male counterparts, these pioneers climbed, explored, discovered and helped open up the Rockies for wome Edmonton Journal 10 Nov. 2002: D14
Thone, Frank. "Nature Ramblings: The Coming of Clover" The Science News-Letter 31.843 (5 Jun. 1937): 367
Tingley, Ken. "Rocky Mountain Memories" Edmonton Journal 8 Oct. 2006: E10
White, David. "Encouragement of Pre-Cambrian Paleontology" The Journal of Geology 36.8 (Nov.-Dec. 1928): 743-744
White, David. "The Promotion of Knowledge of Precambrian Life" Science 67.1747 (Jun. 22 1928): 620-621
Yochelson, Ellis L.. "Discovery, Collection, and Description of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale Biota by Charles Doolittle Walcott" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 140.4 (Dec. 1996): 469-545

Writings by
Vaux, Mary. North American Wild Flowers Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1925
Vaux, Mary. "Camping in the Canadian Rockies" Canadian Alpine Journal 1.1 (1907): 67-71
Vaux, Mary and E. T. Wherry. Illustrations of North American Pitcherplants Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1935
Vaux, Mary, Colleen Skidmore (ed). "Camping in the Canadian Rockies (1907)" In: This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2006
Vaux, Mary, Colleen Skidmore (ed). "Flowers of the Canadian Rockies (1945)" In: This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2006
Vaux, Mary, Colleen Skidmore (ed). "Letter to Dr. Walcott (1912)" In: This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2006
Vaux, Mary, Dorothey Falcon Platt and H. W. Rickett. Wild Flowers of America: 400 Flowers in Full Color Based on Paintings New York: Crown Publishers, 1953

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