Amelia Earhart LOC hec 40747

6 Inspiring Famous Female Explorers

6 Inspiring Famous Female Explorers

3 October 2022

The history of exploration is one dominated by men, whilst the stories of inspiring women explorers remain scarcely known. But the shoes of history’s intrepid female explorers are hard to fill. Some of the most pioneering adventures were made my women, and at the Army Cadets Force we live for adventure – in fact ‘Adventurous Training’ is an integral part of the cadet experience, so shining a light on some of these inspirational exploits seems necessary. From Amelia Earhart’s flying wonders to Nellie Bly’s travels around the world, here are some of the most inspirational and famous female explorers and their stories.

Amelia Earhart (1897-1939)

As a champion in aviation, Amelia Earhart is the first of our inspiring famous female explorers. After becoming one of the first female pilots in the world, Earhart continued her inspiring journey by becoming the first woman to fly above 14,000 feet.

Recognised as a pioneer in air travel, she was asked to co-pilot the first flight across the Atlantic; as a woman she wasn’t allowed to pilot the adventure. Instead, she sought to begin her own. In 1932, she flew across the North Atlantic, landing in Ireland as the first woman to complete a transatlantic solo-flight. Earhart was also the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland.

Sadly, whilst attempting to circumnavigate the glove, Amelia Earhart went missing in July 1937. However, she remains one of the most inspirational female explorers, championing aviation for women and forever changing the world.

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Amelia Earhart was a champion in aviation

Nellie Bly (1864-1922)

Not only has Nellie Bly changed the world of journalism, but her heroic efforts in search of fascinating stories have also landed her as one of the most famous female explorers to date. Whilst working at The New York World in 1888, Bly suggested to her editor that she make the fictional story Around the World In 80 Days a reality. As a woman, Bly was doubted and even laughed at with her editor saying, “No one but a man can do this”.

In 1889, Nellie set off on her 40,070km-long expedition, and in just 72 days was back in New York, setting a new world record for the fastest time anyone had ever travelled around the world. She had successfully traversed the globe by train, ship, horse, and any other mode of transport she could find.

Lucy Atkinson (1817-1893)

Lucy Atkinson is arguably one of the most fearless and courageous female Victorian explorers to have lived. Alongside her husband and new-born baby, Atkinson is most famous for her exploration of Central Asia and Siberia. Whilst documenting her journeys as an author, Atkinson travelled over 40,000 miles to the most remote and isolated landscapes in the world.

In 1863, Lucy made further extraordinary steps as an inspirational female explorer, publishing her book Recollections of Tartar Steppes and Their Inhabitants which became one of the very first travel books published by a woman in English.

Freya Stark (1893-1993)

Widely known as the ‘poet of travel’, Freya Stark was a British-Italian explorer and writer who documented her journeys through the Middle East, Afghanistan, and several other intrepid places of the world in over 24 books and additional works.

Perhaps most poignantly, Stark became the first European to explore the ‘Valleys of the Assassins’ in Persia, despite suffering from Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, and other unpleasant illnesses along the way. Throughout, she continued to document her travels in writing and maps and thus became not only a reputable explorer, but also a respected scholar.

Freya Stark continued her inspirational travels throughout her life, reaching the Annapurna in the Himalayas at a staggering 86 years of age. These are just a few of her incredible explorations, which is why she is now known as one of the most famous female explorers to have lived. Her books are, still today, read worldwide, and she is now formally remembered as Dame Freya Stark after being appointed the title in 1972.

Isabella Bird (1831-1904)

Isabella Bird was a famous British explorer in the nineteenth-century. As a woman, her life of adventure was far different to the expectations of females at the time which makes her story even more inspirational.

Overcoming a male dominated society as well as life-long health issues, Bird rode through the Rocky Mountains in North America in 1873, an incredibly dangerous journey at a time when bandits dominated the area. This 800-mile horseback ride was just one of her incredible travels, however. She visited China, Japan, India, Iran, and many other remarkable places, documenting her extraordinary explorations through writings and iconic photographs, which went on to make popular books.

Her incredible life led her to becoming the first female Fellow at the Geographical Society in 1892 despite the male-dominated society she was a part of, displaying her incredible contribution to exploration and geography.

Jeanne Baret (1740-1807)

Jeanne Baret was a French voyager and part of Louis Antoine’s expedition to circle the Earth in 1766-1769.

Baret’s initial intention was to join the botanist Philibert Commerson on the voyage to collect exotic plants and explore her love for botany. However, due to women being unable to board a ship in France at the time, Baret was forced to join the crew dressed as a boy. In doing so, it led her to becoming the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by ship.

After two years of being identified as a man on board, it was revealed that Baret was in fact a woman, which led to her and her partner Commerson having to leave the voyage in Mauritius. However, many years later, after Commerson’s death and Jeanne’s subsequent marriage to a French Soldier, the couple completed the journey from Mauritius back to France; Jeanne Baret had circumnavigated the globe.

Amelia Earhart image: Harris & Ewing, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons