Celebrating Women Photographers in the American Geographical Society Library

montage of photos

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we highlight three notable photography collections held in our American Geographical Society Library and the women who created them, Mary Light Meader, Louise Arner Boyd, and Mary Jo Read. Above, from left: woman and child, Poland, 1934, Louise Arner Boyd; Giza, 1937, Mary Light Meader; women feeding silkworms, Japan, 1935, Mary Jo Read.


photo of mary light meader

Mary Light Meader (1916-2008) is credited with taking the first aerial photographs from an airplane, flown by her husband Richard Light, of East Africa and the Andes in South America. A member of the Society of Women Geographers and the American Geographical Society, Meader won awards from both groups. Over 1,000 of her photos have been digitized by AGSL.



photo of louise arner boydLouise Arner Boyd (1887-1972) spent the early twentieth century funding and leading a number of expeditions, and her trips to Greenland resulted in two books, The Coast of Northeast Greenland and The Fiord Region of East Greenland. Her photographs in the AGSL collection–more than 3,000 (with 2,100 of these online)–are primarily dedicated to rural and village life in Poland, taken by Boyd while traveling by car across the Polish countryside in 1934. Many of these views accompany the written account of her trip, Polish Countrysides, published in 1937.


photo of Mary Jo ReadMary Jo Read (1911-1998), a specialist in the cultural geography of Latin America, was a faculty member in UWM’s geography department for 25 years and chaired the department 1958-63. She later served as professor of geography at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, retiring in 1975. Read was an avid traveler and photographer, and one of the first tourists to visit Antarctica. AGSL has digitized 250 images she took during a 1935 visit to China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.