The ‘Women’s Lib’ movement was not around then to publicize the fact that the leader of this huge party was a woman! A tiny, gray-haired lady, she was the mother of five adolescent children, but old enough to be a grandmother. She was gentle Quaker lady, of great charm but absolutely indomitable will. She was also a crack shot with a rifle or revolver and a superb horsewoman. She climbed mountains when she was resting, and o brought back hundreds of trophies, living and dead, for American and British Museums. What was she hunting? Perhaps the answer comes as an anticlimax — FLOWERS. Mary Gibson Henry was a dedicated amateur botanist.
In 1935 the Bedeaux expedition had come and gone and the stories of the hardships of the country had been publicized all over the world. Mary Henry was back to lead a third expedition. This time she went all the way from railhead at Dawson Creek to the coast of Alaska. She did not follow the old Mounted Police trail because it was set up to lay out a cart road, going around the difficulties. Her choice was deliberately trail-blazing by pack horse with speed in mind, taking the hazards as they came — through muskegs and valleys and as far as possible up mountains which she could then climb on foot. “We were advised”, she writes “not to take such a perilous journey, but the more difficulties that arose, the more we wanted to go.” Why? Because (1) in places untouched by man she might find never-before discovered plant species. And (2) She was Mary Gibson Henry!
Her contribution to history was not the rare and “record” plants she did find but in a totally unexpected spin-off — her contribution was in the choice of route seven years later for the world’s greatest military road, the Alaska Highway.