Emma was born in Guyan Township, Ohio, in 1887, one of 15 children. At age 19 she married P.C. Gatewood, with whom she had 11 children. P.C. Gatewood was a violent abuser, nearly killing his wife on multiple occasions and leaving her with broken bones and shattered teeth. When her husband became violent, Emma often escaped to the woods, where she found peace and solitude.
In 1955, Emma told her grown children she was going for a walk. She had read an article about the Appalachian Trail and thought it would be “a nice lark.”
At age 67, with just that meager gear, Emma Gatewood became the first woman to solo-hike all 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail, initially finding most of her food by foraging (although as her story was picked up by the news and spread, she received plenty of “trail magic” - food, lodging, and supplies provided by people who lived along the trail). Emma hiked the trail again in 1960, then a third time in 1963 at age 75, making her the first person to thru-hike the trail three times, and the oldest female thru-hiker on record. (In addition to the AT, she also hiked over 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail.) Grandma Gatewood died in 1973 at the age of 85, but her badass legacy will always remain.