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Most Famous Women Explorers

This Women's Month, First Car Rental pays tribute to the pioneering women who have paved the way for adventurers. Check out these famous women explorers who have staked their 'first flags' around the globe.



Jeanne Barret (1740 - 1807)

Jeanne Barret

During the 70's, women were not allowed to serve as crew members on naval vessels. However, when French naturalist Philibert Commerson set sail around the world in 1766, he did so with his assistant and house keeper - Miss Jeanne Barret. In order to to accompany Philibert on the voyage and see the world, Jeanne had to disguise herself as a man.

In Tahiti, the crew caught on to the ruse, but she was praised for her courage and it was decided that she would stay on board until the ship returned home, making Jeanne the first woman to circumvent the globe.

The ship's captain wrote, "I admire her determination. I have taken steps to ensure that she suffers no unpleasantness. The Court will, I think, forgive her for this infraction to the ordinances. Her example will hardly be contagious."



Annie Londonderry (1870 - 1947)

Annie Londonderry

Annie Londonderry was the first woman to cycle around the globe. Annie began her round-the-world cycling adventure outside the Massachusetts State House on June 25 1894. Her route would take her across the United States, through Asia and Europe, and then back to Boston. She planned to complete the journey in less than 15 months in order to win a $10,000 wager staked by two Boston businessmen.

But what many people did not know was that Londonderry was a novice cyclist and was not the hardened explorer she had let journalists and well-wishers to believe.

Annie had to face several obstacles to achieve her accomplishment, one of them being riding in a corset and full skirt which were viewed as mandatory for a respectable woman at the time.

Annie reported back reported her progress back to the US press - with tales of hunting with European aristocrats in India, suffering a gunshot wound in Japan, and pedaling through Colombo in Sri Lanka with a local cycling club.

Annie arrived back in Boston on September 24 1895 - just one day shy of her 15-month deadline.


Amelia Earhart (1897 - Disappeared 1937)

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was an aviation pioneer and received celebrity status when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart developed a passion for flying at a young age and steadily gained flying experience by her twenties.

In 1932, Earhart piloted a Lockheed Vega 5B and made a nonstop solo transatlantic flight, becoming the first woman to achieve such a feat. She received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for her accomplishment.

In 1937, Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the glob in a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Her disappearance remains a mystery till today.



Alexandra David-Néel (1868 - 1969)

Alexandra David-Neel

In the early 1900s it was illegal to visit Tibet, but Paris-born Alexandra David-Néel wasn't deterred. Accompanied by a young Buddhist monk called Aphur Yongden, David-Néel set off from China to Lhasa in Tibet, in autumn 1923.

They disguised themselves as pilgrims. In her diary, Alexandra writes of having powdered her face with a mixture of cocoa and crushed charcoal, to obtain a dark complexion and rubbing a wet stick of Chinese ink on her brown hair.

After four months of walking, they arrived in Lhasa and spent two months exploring temples and enjoying the festivities of Tibetan new year. When David-Néel recounted her adventures back on home soil, her male counterparts were flabbergasted.


Annie Smith Peck (1850-1935)

Annie Smith Peck

Annie Smith Peck was a trailblazing American mountaineer and scholar. She wrote and lectured about her adventures to encourage travel and exploration. Peck set several mountain climbing records, however, her achievements were overshadowed by the outrage caused by her climbing attire which were trousers and tunics instead of skirts.

But Peck's enthusiasm and hunger for exploration never dwindled. She showed her support for the Suffragist movement by planting a flag championing votes for women atop Mount Coropuna in Peru. The north peak of Huascarán in Peru was renamed Cumbre Aña Peck (in 1928) in honour of its first climber.

She was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society four years after women were admitted and was a founding member of the American Alpine Club. Smith climbed her last mountain, the 5,367ft Mount Madison in New Hampshire, at the age of 82.



Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman broke the barriers of race and gender discrimination when she became the first woman in the world, of African-American descent and Native American descent, to hold a pilot license.

Bessie was banned from flying schools in America, so she taught herself French and travelled to France where she earned her international pilot's licence in 1921, two years before her more famous contemporary, Amelia Earhart. Coleman flew all over the US, performing aerial tricks and lecturing to raise funds for an African-American flying school.

Bessie refused to participate in segregated events. Tragically, her life and dream ended when she died during an air show rehearsal at the age of 34.


Sources: Wikipedia | Telegraph UK


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