For 25 years, the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region has been helping women and girls to find the courage to better themselves.
The local woman who was the subject of Thursday’s 20th Women’s Fund Luncheon – its first virtual version – was the epitome of courage.
Author and Appleton native Johanna Garton was the speaker for the event. She told the story of another Appleton woman, adventurist Christine Boskoff, the subject of Garton’s new book “Edge of the Map.” Boskoff lost her life at age 39 climbing a mountain on the border between Nepal and western China.
Boskoff’s story first interested Johanna’s mother, Jane Garton, a journalist and the first executive director of the Women’s Fund. After working on the research for 10 years, Jane turned the project over to her daughter. Johanna found she had a lot in common with Boskoff.
Both graduated from Appleton East. Both spent considerable time in China. The climber died near the Chinese city Johanna’s adopted son came from.
Boskoff was working in Atlanta designing flight simulators for Lockheed Aeronautical Systems in 1993 when she took a two-day mountaineering class and was hooked.
“She had an insatiable desire to be part of those mountains,” Garton said.
Boskoff set about breaking altitude and gender barriers. She remains the only American woman to have climbed six mountains with elevations greater than 8,000 meters. She also became the only woman in the elite world of adventure expedition outfitting. Garton said what set the woman from Appleton apart was not a lack of fear, but “her courage in the face of fear.”
In November of 2006, Boskoff and climbing companion Charlie Fowler were reported missing while climbing Genyen Peak in China’s Sichuan Province. Eventually her body was found on the mountain.
Garton tied the lessons of Boskoff’s life to the mission of the Women’s Fund. She encouraged her online audience of about 400 streaming through Facebook or YouTube to work hard until all women and girls feel that sense of freedom. “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Put the worry aside.”
Garton offered this explanation for Boskoff’s story being told 14 years after her death: “The story was waiting for this moment in time to bring light to the darkness.”
The Women’s Fund’s story also is impressive. It was formed with a challenge for 100 women each to donate $1,000 (108 did). The fund has awarded $1.7 million in grants in its 25 years.
The anniversary inspired two challenge grants. Community First Credit Union, the lead sponsor for all 20 years of the luncheon, has offered to match all donations up to $25,000 and an anonymous founding donor will match another $10,000.
Book signing: Saturday, Sept. 12, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 39 E. Fox Point Drive, Grand Chute. Please wear a mask.