Shackleton, Marco Polo, Sir Edmund Hillary. We are all familiar with the epic adventures and voyages of the XY chromosomes. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the Wright Brothers took flight, and Jacques Cousteau became a man-fish. Hurray.
But where are the women? Check out Time‘s “The Greatest Adventures of All Time” and prepare to not be surprised all over again that history is male-centric.
This is one part amusing and two parts invigorating. It’s time to shed light on the great female adventurers, the brave ladies who set off, strong-willed in the face of opposition — sort of like all of those times we Wanderful wanderers decided to travel anywhere alone despite everyone else’s dissent.
Gertrude Bell (1868-1926)
Writer. Archaeologist. Political officer. Adventurer.
Gertrude Bell was a pioneer who set off to the Middle East, her primary region of interest, and became pivotal in the birth of a new country: Iraq. Her first trip in 1899 to Palestine and Syria was the beginning of what would become a sustained presence and influence in the Middle East. She was fluent in both Persian and Arabic — a total dream of mine, by the way.
By 1915, Gertrude Bell was in Cairo, Egypt as “the first woman officer ever to be employed by British military intelligence” (Iraq News). Bad-ass or what?
Born in 1788 in Lemhi County, Idaho, Sacagawea is famous for serving as a Shoshone interpreter on Lewis and Clark’s famous excursion towards the American West. Despite having just given birth to her first child, Sacagawea embarked with the duo and became an invaluable source of strength and knowledge on their voyage cross-country.
It is undeniable that the voyage would have been unsuccessful without her knowledge of plants and roots, her ability to navigate, and her calm focus when their boat capsized, which is an event that stands out as revealing her brave character.
Sacagawea is one of the most memorialized women in the United States, appearing on coins and as statues and monuments all over the country. How much do we really know her? Was she fearless? Maybe not, but she in the face of fear she dealt, and that is one of the strongest attributes of any traveling woman.
Junko Tabei (1939-Present)
Mount Everest, anyone? On May 16, 1975, Junko Tabei, a Japanese mountain climber, became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest.
After graduating with a degree in English Literature from a university in Tokyo, she began climbing. Today, she can boast being the only woman to have reached the highest summit on all seven continents.
In the 1970s, when the norm was for men to go off to work and women to stay home and care for the children, Junko left her 3-year-old in the care of her husband and took off for Everest. But Tabei wasn’t alone. She was the leader of a 15-member group of women! Today, as Everest climbing becomes something of a celebrity sport, Junko reminds herself and others of her reason for climbing Everest: Simply for the challenge and joy of climbing it.
Which female adventurer do you admire? Whose remarkable expedition or sustained knack for adventure has inspired you?