Mar 202015


  • Unknown-14Emmeline Freda Du Faur was born on 16 September 1882 at Croydon, Sydney, Australia,  Freda was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls. She lived with her family near the Ku-ring-gai Chase national park where, as a young woman, she explored and taught herself to rock-climb.  So, while researching I thought – tomboy, tomboy!
  • It has been written that Freda was unable to finishing nursing training “because the mental strain on a sensitive, highly strung nature had been too great’   I find this statement questionable – what greater mental strain could there be then to climb the sheer face of mountains?  Just my opinion.   She did have an independent income and I think that this, combined with a love of mountains, may have been just ideal for an independent spirit.

New Zealand and Mountains

In 1906, photographs of *Aoraki/ Mount Cook on the south island inspired her to journey to see it for herself.  She made a resolution to climb it.  She learned climbing skills from Peter Graham and on December 19, 1909 she climbed Mt. Sealy with always  Aoraki/ Mount Cook as her ultimate goal.  (Maori name for Mt. Cook is Aoraki)

Enter Muriel Cadogan

Muriel was one of the staff at Dupain Institute of Physical Education in Sydney, Australia.  They fell in love (not sure which one of them ‘knew the ropes’ better ! LOL.   I also read that Freda spent three months training “under” Muriel – really?  Let me stretch my imagination?? LOL    Freda credits this training to the fact that on December 3, 1910 she climbed Aoraki/ Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand.  (3,724 metres or

Aoraki/Mt. Cook  3,724 metres (12,218 ft)

Aoraki/Mt. Cook
3,724 metres (12,218 ft)

12,218 ft)

She wrote: ‘I was the first unmarried woman…to climb in New Zealand, and in consequence I received all the hard knocks until one day when I awoke more or less famous in the mountaineering world, after which I could and did do exactly as seemed to me best.’   I would add that she was the first lesbian to climb Aoraki/ Mount Cook.

 A House in England.

Freda and Muriel sailed for England where they bought a home together.  War World I (1914-1918) had broken out and Freda put mountain climbing aside and wrote a book, The Conquest of V.  They lived in London and then moved to a seaside town called Bournemouth.  Muriel later had mental problems and Freda moved her and herself to a facility. The couple was separated and Freda left and Muriel continued treatment.  Muriel’s family came to take her back to Australia and Muriel died in June 1929 on the voyage home.   Freda returned to Australia.   Six years later, Freda poisoned herself with carbon monoxide.  She is buried in the Church of England cemetery at Manly, a suburb of Sydney.  The grave was unmarked from 1935 until 2006.

347227A Fitting Head Stone

On December 3, 2006 a group of New Zealand climbers and friends gathered around a grave in Manly Cemetery that had been unmarked for more than 70 years. It marked the 96th anniversary of Freda’s climb of Aoraki/ Mount Cook in 1910. They brought a rock made of New Zealand greywacke, from the slopes of Aoraki/ Mount Cook. They cemented it to the ground with a plaque. The tiny plaque bears the name of Freda Du Faur.

Freda Du Faur, the first female mountaineer to climb Aoraki/ Mount Cook was given the recognition she deserved by a group of New Zealand climbers.

Although by birth Australian, New Zealand’s climbers wanted to memorialize Du Faur’s pioneering feats in their country.

paula:  I could not find a picture of Muriel.  I could not find how Muriel died.  She was aboard a steam ship. Was she buried at sea?

  2 Responses to “Freda du Faur 1882–1935 Mountaineering Lesbian Legend”

  1. Prepare to be amazed. Freda trained under the tutelage of Muriel in the Physical Culture Institute of George Zephirin Dupain. She trained there, as she had done at school, using the methods of my great-grandfather Eugen Sandow whose systems informed physical culturalists of the time. Her wealthy father was on the fundraising committee for Mawson whose 1911-1914 expedition was funded by Sandow to the tune of £1050. Mawson chose J.H.C Close ( a Sandow devotee and Frontiersman) who founded the first Australian School of Physical Culture in Sydney ( 1905) to train his party. Close visited her C of E School run by headmistress Miss Badham and presented prizes in 1915. his systems were also used at St Vincent’s College. Freda would have used the sandow Exerciser and grip dumb-bells almost with certainty, and would have followed his wallchart exercises specally designed for women.
    When Freda met Muriel they bonded and clearly were in love, but the family was against it especially the father. so after all the mountaineering, the idea probably was to ” cure” her of this lesbian sickness. It all sounded horrible and most likely was. Heartbroken after Muriel’s death, Freda took her own life, but not before she had suffered at the hands of her family, probably the father. And she was put in a grave unmarked …just like her gay idol Eugen Sandow who had promulgated his hyperbolic message accross australia and NZ in 1902. I too erected a massive pink sandstone gravestone on Sandow’s grave in 2008, after having removed the shabby efforts of a out of control gay fan called Tom Manly ( pseudonym ) who wrote a fine gay novel called 2 for the love of Eugen “. Sandow’s wife Blanche wanted to extinguish all memory of her husband. His first lover was the famous pianist Martinus Sieveking. More to come.

    • Hi Chris:
      Wow. Oh, my goodness, thank you for taking the time to give extra information on Freda. You must be very proud of your great-grandfather and his contribution to physical fitness and mental training. It is with great sadness that I read of the love of Muriel and Frieda and the power and ignorance of a wealthy family to sabotage love. Chris, have you written about Freda and Muriel for magazines or in a book form? We need to acknowledge their greatness in mountaineering and in their ‘forbidden’ love. It is ironic that in March 2016, the World Psychiatric Association wrote to the U.N and world leaders declaring that homosexuality cannot be changed and is, therefore, not a choice. Yet, we still victimize the LGBTI community. Thank you once again for taking the time and explaining much about Freda. The ‘unmarked grave’ is interesting in was this her last fight against tyranny – you can’t get me now? Or was it the final humiliation of a despicable “Christian” family?

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