Female adventurers and explorers have existed throughout time in some form or fashion. However, there are some who fully embraced their wanderlust, followed their dreams and created history, breaking barriers not just on their home turf, but across the globe as well. Their boldness has paved the way for future trailblazers creating a more equal place in the great outdoors. As such, in commemoration of Women's History Month we proudly present to you our Top 5 Pioneer Adventurers:
Born in Yorkshire, England in 1831, Isabella Bird was an outspoken child who grew into a daring woman. Due to the chronic ailments she suffered with throughout her childhood, a life outdoors was part of the recommended treatment by her doctor resulting in her learning to ride and row at a very young age. Moving frequently due to her father's job, her life in travelling only truly began when she sailed to America in 1854 with her cousins. Since her maiden voyage she sailed to over 15 countries within 25 years including Hawaii, India and Australia. Throughout her career as a world traveller, she had been awarded several accolades, many of which were the first of its kind to be held by a woman. She was the first woman to be awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in addition to being the first woman to be allowed to join the Royal Geographical Society. Her life has since gone on to be the subject of several biographies as well as geographical texts.
Another remarkable woman from Great Britain, Gertrude Bell wore many hats for a woman of her time including traveller, administrator and archaeologist. Thanks to her family's social status, Bell was afforded several opportunities to travel which encouraged her interests in the world and international relations. Through her extensive world travels she became fluent in Arabic, Persian, French and German.with a working knowledge also of Italian and Turkish. Her career as a mountaineer is also well celebrated as she recorded 10 new paths or ascents in the Burmese Alps with one peak being named after her (Gertrudspitze). Her death in 1926 was mourned by many including officials and dignitaries from both British and Iraqi governments. Posthumously, she was awarded The Order of the British Empire for her work as a political officer between Britain and the Middle East. She has also been immortalized on screen with her life and work becoming the subject of several films and documentaries.
Bessie Coleman fought prejudice both against her sex and her race to achieve her dreams of becoming a pilot. Being of both African-American and Native-American descent, Coleman attended flight school in France to escape the prohibition that was placed on both of her ethnicities, as well as on women, in flight schools in the United States. On June 15, 1921 she became the first woman of colour to earn an aviation pilot's license instantly making her a celebrity back in the United States. She went on to have a successful career as an airshow stunt woman, affectionately referred to as "Queen Bess". Although she never had the opportunity to realize her dream of establishing a school for young, black aviators due to her untimely death, she is remembered and honoured with several structures, landmarks and awards named after her.
This woman was nothing short of remarkable and epitomized the “get up and go” attitude! Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Pennsylvania, USA she began an illustrious career in journalism at the young age of 16 when she wrote a passionate response to a narrow-minded article published in a local newspaper entitled “What Girls Are Good For”. From here, she challenged and pushed the boundaries of investigative reporting by feigning insanity in order to be committed to an insane asylum, the result of which was a sensational exposé and lifelong recognition as a writer. However, her most notable accomplishment was her trip around the world in 1889. Inspired by the Jules Verne book “Around the World in Eighty Days”, Bly successfully circumnavigated the world by steamboat and railroad (many times alone) in a then record time of 72 days. Bly travelled through the Pacific, Asia and Europe, even meeting Jules Verne himself while in England! Since then, her name, accomplishments and persona have been memorialized through several media including dramatic representations like Broadway plays and movies, journalism awards and postage stamps with her namesake, and not to mention, induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Our favourite tidbit about Nellie Bly: the character Lois Lane from the Superman comic book series was inspired by her! How awesome is that?!
Although she never received the immediate recognition she deserved, Jeanne Baret became the first woman in history to circumnavigate the globe. Between 1766-1769, this French woman (who was also said to be an expert botanist) joined an expedition under the guise as a man since women were barred from naval ships during that time. Before her true sex was discovered while in Tahiti in 1768, Baret collected hundreds of plant specimens during her voyage to exotic places such as Brazil, Uruguay, the Falklands and a few Pacific islands. She also made numerous scientific breakthroughs, the most notable being the discovery of a woody vine with red, flamboyant flowers she named Bougainvillea after the leader of the expedition, Louis Antoine de Bougainville. In 2015 she finally received her long overdue acknowledgment for her contributions to botany when a plant, the Solanum Baretiae was named after her. Additionally, her biography, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley, is credited with bringing her story, accomplishments and contributions to science and women’s history to the forefront.
We tip our hats to these 5 women who had the guts and gained the glory from their fearlessness. They also prove that any woman can be an adventurer despite the restrictions society may try to place on her. With the sky being the only limit our potential to achieve greatness is truly unlimited! Join us in our next instalment of this series where we highlight the trailblazers of female adventuring.