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Ann  Bancroft

Ann Bancroft

Preeminent Polar Explorer


Ann Bancroft is one of the world’s preeminent polar explorers and an internationally recognized leader who is dedicated to inspiring women and girl audiences around the world to unleash the power of their dreams. Through her various roles as an explorer, educator and sought-after speaker, Bancroft believes that by sharing stories related to her dreams of outdoor adventure, she can help inspire a global audience to pursue their individual dreams. Read More >

Bancroft’s teamwork and leadership skills have undergone severe tests during her polar expeditions and provided her with opportunities to shatter female stereotypes. The tenacity and courage that define her character have earned Bancroft worldwide recognition as one of today’s most influential role models for women and girls. She has been named among Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year” (2001); 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); and honored with numerous other awards for her accomplishments.

 Bancroft is the first known woman in history to cross the ice to the North and South Poles.  In 1986, Bancroft dogsledded 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the Northwest Territories in Canada to the North Pole as the only female member of the Steger International Polar Expedition.  In 1993, she led the American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole, a 67-day expedition of 660 miles (1,060 km) on skis by four women. In February 2001, Bancroft and Norwegian polar explorer Liv Arnesen become the first women in history to sail and ski across Antarctica’s landmass – completing a 1,717-mile (2,747 km) trek in 94 days. Throughout this journey, she stayed in contact with children across the country via the internet.

Born in 1955 in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, Bancroft’s love of the outdoors began early in life.  Aside from the two years she spent with her family in Kenya, East Africa (in fifth and sixth grades), Bancroft was a student of Minnesota’s vast wilderness.  Her father often took her on camping and canoe trips in northern Minnesota.  At age eight, she began to lead her own mini-expeditions, cajoling her cousins into accompanying her on backyard winter camping trips.

Bancroft’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, Bancroft taught physical and special education in Minneapolis schools and coached softball, basketball, track and field, volleyball and tennis.  She also was an instructor for Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that helps disabled and able-bodied individuals enjoy the wilderness year round.

Bancroft’s other achievements include founding and leading the Ann Bancroft Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the existing and potential achievements of women and girls.

Bancroft, 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 James Earl Jones, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover and Bruce Jenner.  Most recently, Bancroft partnered up with fellow explorer Liv Arnesen to write, No Horizon is So Far, about their extraordinary journey across Antarctica, published in October 2003.

A nationally and internationally known entity, Bancroft has been featured in Time, People, USA Today, Ms., McCall’s, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, National Geographic, Outside, Sports Illustrated for Kids and 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.

With Bancroft’s polar expeditions come severe tests of teamwork and leadership, as well as opportunities to shatter female stereotypes, making her a sought-after speaker and seminar leader on these topics among corporations, schools and nonprofit organizations. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Lessons from the South Pole: Leadership and Teamwork

The Challenge of Adapting to Change

Taking Risks to Achieve Your Dreams