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During her polar expeditions, keynote speaker Ann Bancroft’s teamwork and leadership skills continuously underwent severe tests and provided her with opportunities to shatter the female stereotypes. Tenacity and courage defines her character and have earned Ann a worldwide recognition as one of today’s most influential role models for both women and young girls.
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First woman to cross the ice to the North and South Poles and founder of the Ann Bancroft Foundation
Ann Bancroft was the first woman in history to cross the ice to the North and South Poles. In 1986, Ann dogsledded 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the Northwest Territories in Canada to the North Pole and was the only female member of the Steger International Polar Expedition. Seven years late, in 1993, she led the American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole. It was a 67-day expedition of 660 miles (1,060 km) done on skis by four women. Most recently, in February 2001, Ann and Liv Arnesen from Norway became the first team of women to ski across the landmass of Antarctica.
Born in 1955 in Mendota Heights, MN, Ann’s love of the outdoors began at a very early age. Aside from the two years she spent with her family in Kenya, East Africa (in the fifth and sixth grades), Ann was an avid student of Minnesota’s vast wilderness. Her father frequently took her on camping and canoe trips in northern Minnesota. At the age of eight, she began to lead her own mini-expeditions, cajoling her cousins into joining her on backyard winter camping trips.
Ann’s passion for polar adventures is matched by her enthusiasm for teaching children. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Oregon, Ann taught physical and special education in Minneapolis schools. She also coached softball, basketball, track and field, volleyball and tennis. She was an instructor for Wilderness Inquiry, an organization which helps disabled and able-bodied individuals enjoy and experience the wilderness year round.
Some of Ann’s other achievements include founding and leading the Ann Bancroft Foundation. This is a non-profit organization that celebrates the existing and potential achievements of women and girls everywhere. She has been featured in the book Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century (1998); inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1995); named Ms. magazine’s “Woman of the Year” (1987). Additionally, she has been honored with numerous awards for her many accomplishments. Most recently, Ann, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, appeared in “Ennis’ Gift, a film about learning differences,” a documentary produced by the Ennis Cosby Foundation featuring celebrities who have dealt with learning disabilities, such as Henry Winkler, Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, and Bruce Jenner.
A nationally and internationally known entity, Ann has been featured in publications such as USA Today, Time, People, Ms., McCall’s, Vogue, Glamour, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping, Outside, Sports Illustrated for Kids and she has appeared on BBC, CNN and National Public Radio. She is currently serving on the National Women’s Hall of Fame board of directors and has been a spokesperson for the M.S. Society, United Way, United Cerebral Palsy and the Learning Disabilities Association.
In November 2012, renowned polar explorers and educators Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will lead a team of six women, from six continents, on an 800 mile, 80-day long expedition to the South Pole.
Each of the women on the expedition will be representing the key water challenges facing their continent. Together, their journey will be the centerpiece of a global awareness and outreach program which will spur us all to join hands in helping to solve our global water crisis.