Miss Meta Claudia BREVOORT (1825–1876)
St Giles section: Row 31, Grave J26

Meta Brevoort






See adjoining grave (Row 31, Grave J25, just visible
on the right of this picture)
for Meta's sister,
Mrs Elisabeth Neville COOLIDGE, née Brevoort

Meta Brevoort


Marguerite Claudia Brevoort (left), who was always known as Meta, was born in New York on 8 November 1825.

Her sister Elisabeth Neville Brevoort was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 5 January 1822.

They were from a wealthy New York family of Dutch origin who had made their fortune in the fur trade.


Left: Marguerite Claudia Brevoort, from Ronald W. Clarke,
An Eccentric in the Alps (Museum Press, 1959)

Meta attended a convent school in Paris.

In 1865, when she was about 40, she became a mountain climber (the first female one to wear trousers) and was once described as a “grosse hollandische-amerikanische Miss”. For more on her mountaineering career, see:

In 1864 Meta and her sister Mrs Elisabeth Coolidge (who took her two children with her, leaving her husband behind in New York) moved permanently to Europe, and initially lived in Florence, Switzerland, and Germany.

Meta Brevoort


In August 1865, when her nephew William was 14, Meta introduced him to mountain climbing, and he became an outstanding mountaineer.

Right: Meta Brevoort with her nephew William and
his dog Tschingel, who herself made 66 ascents

11 Museum Road
6 Museum Terrace (now 11 Museum Road)

In about 1869 Meta, together with her younger sister Elisabeth, came to live in Oxford at 6 Museum Terrace (later numbered 11 Museum Road), and now the left-hand side of Lady Abraham House at Nos. 11/12 (right).

In 1870 Meta took her nephew and his dog Tschingel on an expedition to Dauphiné, and wrote thus about their arrival at Le Grave:

We arrived soaking at 4.10 after six hours’ march from the chalets, and to such an inn. The floor of our room black as the ace of spades, a bag of flour and a sieve in one corner. No means of washing, apparently flowers spread out to dry on the floor, no pillows, sheets like dishcloths! Will went to bed while his clothes were drying and, concluding it was the best place for him, remained there. We made some tea and had boiled eggs, but neither milk nor butter as the cows are away. Fleas without end.

None the less they proceeded to make the first ascent of the central peak of the Meije, the first ascent of the Ailefroide on the other side of the group, and the third ascent of the Écrins. They then made the fifth ascent of the Dent Blanche, attempted the Weisshorn, climbed the Dom, and did some lesser climbs, before returning to England by a circuitous route necessitated by the Franco-Prussian war, which had started in July 1870.

At the time of the 1871 census Miss Meta Brevoort (45) was back in Oxford, and was listed as the head of the household at 6 Museum Terrace. Living with her were her sister Mrs Elisabeth Coolidge (49) and Elisabeth’s children William (20), who was listed as an undergraduate at Exeter College, and Elisabeth (13), who was at school. Both Meta and Elisabeth were described as having “income from various sources in America”.

On 5 September of that same year Meta became the first woman to scale the Matterhorn (from Zermatt to Breuil), accompanied by her nephew; and in the following two weeks she became the first woman to ascend the Weisshorn and the Dent Blanche.

Her sister Mrs Elisabeth Coolidge died at 6 Museum Terrace in January 1875, and was buried at St Sepulchre's Cemetery: see her grave.

In 1876 Meta Brevoort moved in with her niece Miss Elisabeth Coolidge at Dorking. She made her last trip to Dauphiné in 1876, and died back in Dorking of a cardiac infection at the end of that year. Her body was brought to Oxford, and she was buried in the plot next to her sister:

† Miss Meta Claudia Brevoort died at Dorking at the age of 51 on 19 December 1876 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 22 December (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

Her death was registered with the informal forename Meta rather than Marguerite, and she is also recorded as Meta in the St Giles's Church register. Her death notice in the Pall Mall Gazette read simply: “BREVOORT, Meta C., daughter of the late Mr. Henry, of New York, at Dorking, Dec. 19”; and in The Morning Post: “BREVOORT. – On the 19th inst., at Park End, Dorking, Meta C., eldest surviving daughter of the late Henry Brevoort, Esq., of New York.”

Following her death, her nephew William Coolidge began his work on Alpine history.



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