Afternoon talk: Snow Widows – Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition by the Women Left Behind

Date(s) - 18th Sep 2023

St Matthew's Church


Now for the first time, and with unprecedented access to family archives, Katherine MacInnes retells the story of the race for the South Pole from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it.

Robert Falcon Scott and the men of his polar expedition were heroes of their age, enduring tremendous hardships to further the reputation of the empire they served.  But they were also husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

In a remarkable feat of historical reconstruction and with a gripping narrative voice, Katherine MacInnes vividly depicts the lives, loves and losses of five women forced into the public eye by tragedy and shaped by the unrelenting culture of empire. Kathleen Scott, the fierce young wife of the expedition leader was also a renowned artist.  Oriana Wilson, a true partner to the expedition’s doctor, was a scientific mind in her own right.  ‘Empire’ Emily Bowers had travelled the globe as a missionary teacher.  The indomitable Caroline Oates was the very picture of decorum and everything an Edwardian woman aspired to be.  Lois Evans led a harder life than the other women, constantly on the edge of poverty.

 Snow Widows offers a fresh perspective to a familiar story, and a fascinating window onto a lost world.

Katherine MacInnes researched first Oriana Wilson CBE and then the five women left behind by Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1912. She shares over a decades worth of research both at The Wilson archives in Cheltenham and further afield, in a talk about the invisible women who waited in hope. The women are central to understanding the personalities of the men. It was the women in whom the men confided so that often the woman at home in the Northern Hemisphere knew more about what the man was thinking than the man in the neighbouring sleeping bag in the Antarctic. Katherine has researched the history of communications in the early 20th century where pigeon post was used alongside radio. She goes through the mis-captioning of all but one of the five Snow Widows revealing the real people behind the legend of Scott’s Antarctic focusing on Oriana Wilson and her husband Dr Edward Wilson, after whose family The Wilson museum is named.


Cost per person: £11, to include tea/coffee

Non-members welcome.

If you have any questions please phone Sue on 07767 624575.

Please book using one of the following options:

  • On-line bookings with a debit or credit card can be made using the form below. Alternatively you may reserve your place, select the ‘off-line’ payment option and pay by bank transfer or cheque.
  • Bank transfer – please email and wait for confirmation that places are available before arranging your bank transfer.
  • Cheque – please complete a booking form (download here ) and post it with your cheque.

Places are not confirmed until payment is received.

Bank transfers should be made to Friends of The Wilson (or as much of that as the bank will accept) Sort Code 30-91-87 Account 00005816. The reference must include your surname plus as much of the event title as will fit, for example SMITH Snow.

Please make cheques payable to Friends of The Wilson and send with a SAE or clearly written email address to Mrs Alison Pascoe, 77 Naunton Lane, Cheltenham, GL53 7AZ.



Bookings are now closed for this event.