I just received my copy of the new DVD put out by Grandma Gatewood’s family in collaboration with a grant from the Ohio Historical Society’s History Fund. Nominated for an Emmy, the 50 minute video explores Emma Gatewood’s 1955 solo thru hike of the Appalahian trail, after she had raised 11 children and survived domestic abuse. Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person – man or woman – to walk it twice and then went on to hike it a third time.
I first learned about Grandma Gatewood in the classic two volume series published by Rodale Press in 1975 entiiled Hiking the Appalachian Trail. At one time, she was the most visible personality that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Sure, Earl Schaffer completed the first thru hike of the AT in 1948, but his personality was more taciturn and he tended to shun publicity. Emma’s first 1954 attempt at the AT was unsuccessful, but she ditched her a pack, repaired her broken glasses, and transform herself into an ultra light hiker that resulted in a northbound through hike in 1955.
Emma was schooled up to eighth grade, living in a log cabin with her 14 siblings. She married at age 19 experiencing almost daily physical abuse from her husband for 33 years. She grew up and spent her adult life on farms. A product of 60+ years of hard physical work, Emma Gatewood took to the trail after her youngest of 11 children was independent and she had divorced her husband.
Grandma Gatewood hiked in Red Ball Jets hightop sneakers. She carried her gear in a cotton dufflebag that she placed on her shoulder. She was a tiny woman, but as the song goes, “Oh what those five feet two could do.”
The movie contains historic photos, and interviews with past and present AT hikers, as well as commentary from Emma’s daughter and granddaughter. I particularly enjoyed seing some of the actual gear that went on these hikes.
Here’s a trailer of the DVD.
Also ead my review of the 2015 book: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk