10 Of The Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Columbus, Cook and Piet Hein!! All name of men who explored the seven seas of our world and navigated new countries, or heroically managed to make a path for future pioneers in the dangerous wilderness beyond the civilized Europe. Their names we know (at least if you had paid attention occasionally) from our history lessons and we will not forget them. Anyway, this list is just not imaginative journeys. It is not about men.

It is about traveling and remarkable adventures that are really often forgotten, and partly because they were not tough guys who experienced these adventures, but women. Most women in this list were a part of a patriarchal society where the women was destined to be in the four walls.

But before too much feminism lapses the list, we give you the stories of the greatest women explorers and adventurers.

10 Jeanne Barre 1740-1807

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Jeanne Barre (also Beret), was the first woman explorer who traveled around the world.  And how? Disguised as a man!

The curious thing about Jeanne is that she is one of the few ladies in our list who did not come from a wealthy family. Her father, Jean Beret was a day-laborer, and therefore totally illiterate.

In 1660, Jeanne was the head of the household scientist Commerçon Philibert. Post his wife’s death, they more than just shared a clean house. Jeanne became pregnant in 1664. Women at that time, who became pregnant out of wedlock, had to write down a certificate stating who the culprit was. The certificate had Philibert’s name on it. Philibert and Jeanne moved to an apartment in Paris (where Joan officially still remained his housekeeper). Philibert left his legitimate son behind in rural areas, under the care of family. They never saw each other. A year later ger newborn son died.

At the age of 26 Jeanne thus trimmed, dressed up as a man and headed to the ship Etoile (Star) in Rochefort. All the while Jeanne remained a loyal assistant of Phillibert. They presumably traveled together to Madagascar and Bourbon in the years 1770 to 1772. Unfortunately Philibert died in 1773, in Mauritius. Even worse, he left nothing behind for Jeanne to return to Paris. There was a fortune awaiting her as a legacy which he almost had left her.

She took a job as a waitress in an establishment with a good name and reputation. Two years later she married an officer who was in France on his way back. Around 1775 she was with him on her trip around the world. She inherited Philibert’s capital and snuggled with her new husband, Dubernat, in his native village- Saint Aulaye. Jeanne died at the age of 67 in the village of Saint Aulaye.

9 Lady Hester Stanhope, 1776-1839

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope was born on March 12, 1776. She became a member of the so-called socialite class of society. Hester, however, was an adventurer and explorer who has made major discoveries in Ashkelon, where the first modern archaeological excavation has her name.

In 1803 she became the head of the household of her nephew William Pitt the Younger. His position as primeminister forced him to maintain a hostess.  And this is where Hester came up. She took the formal duties of a wife and soon became known for her beauty and her conversational art. When Pitt died in 1806, she received a retirement of the state of some 1,200 British pounds, a huge sum at the time. She moved to Wales after a few years. In 1810 she left the entire British island forever, and there’s a rumor that it was because of a romantic blunder. But there is no written source to find.

Charles Meryon was her travel doctor and biographer. Her other companions were Anne Fry, her nurse, and Michael Bruce, whose task was not disclosed immediately but who later suspected was her secret love. They traveled from Athens to Cairo. Hester went on to Gibraltar, Malta, Athens, Constantinople, and so on. Everywhere she went, Hester refused the veil.

Hester snuggled in Sidon, now located in Lebanon. Her nurse, a certain Miss Williams and her doctor Charles Meryon initially stayed with her, but Miss Williams died in 1828. Charles went on the world, to return only once in 1838 . Hester remained in Lebanon until her death in 1839. During that time she had absolute power over the communes around her, and she offered shelter and protection to a lot of refugees. However, eventually she could no longer pay her lifestyle, and slowly began her servants to rob her because she could not pay them in the normal way. She did not receive visitors after dark, and wore a turban on her shaved head. Strange she was!

8 Ida Laura Phfeiffer, 1797-1858

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Adventurous Women come from all over the world, or at least everywhere in Europe.

Ida was born in Vienna on October 14, 1797. She became a recognized travel books author and gained popularity to an extent that her books were translated in seven languages. She was also a member of both the Berlin and the Parisian geographical societies for geographers and explorers.

Ida was from a well-off family. Her father was a wealthy merchant called Reyer. Her father gave his daughter an education that really only boys had at that time.

Five years old Ida was on her first long trip to Palestine and Egypt. Paradise could not last forever, and her father died when she was nine years old.

When her mother died in 1831, she finally realized her childhood dream to travel the world. She started in 1842, with the Danube (near) and the Black Sea where it flows. She visited Palestine and Egypt for a second time, and returned via Italy. She wrote a book about her findings and with the money from the book she paid her next trip. Then she went to Scandinavia and Iceland. In 1846 she traveled to Chile and Brazil, via Tahiti, China, India and Greece. In 1851 she went off again, this time to South Africa, and on to Malaysia, where she lived for 18 months on the Sunda Islands. She visited Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malacus, to continue through Australia to California, Oregon, Peru, New Granada, and finally, through North America, returned to Vienna (three years later). And you guessed it, there was a book.

In 1857 she hit the road to Madagascar, and was received by the Queen of Madagascar- Ranavalona I. She let herself inadvertently drawn into a government coupe. Ida has a total of two world tours on her name and numerous books on other explorations. For a lady who started traveling past 40, it’s never too late!

7 Alexandrine Tinne, 1835-1869

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Alexandrine Tinne was a Hague (Netherlands).  She was born in The Hague on October 17, 1835, to a rich merchant Philip Frederik Tinne and Baroness Henriette van Capellen.

Young Alex was a very smart kid, happy, and well with the piano. However, when she was ten, her father died. Alex could have enjoyed the heritage. She was in fact, suddenly, the richest yard lady in the Netherlands.

Alex and her mother wanted to explore the world. They traveled together to Norway, Italy and the Middle East, as well as Egypt. There they were followed by the first ladies upstream Egyptian Nile to almost to the equator. The first long journey to Central Africa began in 1861, from Cairo. A hellish journey was plagued by illness, and Alex’s mother caught hold of it. However, in 1864, she finally reached out to the final goal- Khartoum, three years after leaving.

Her half-brother lived in Liverpool and persuaded her to return. Alex was adamant and John returned with the two bodies, her aunt and her mother, and her best wishes. In 1869 she tried a second time to stab the Sahara and meet the Tuareg. This time she started in Tripoli. Unfortunately, because they had regular bouts of spit, she could badly maintain order in her caravan. It is widely believed that she was killed by a Tuareg himself, on the morning of August 1, 1869. The reason is debatable as there are numerous theories.

6 Annie Edson Taylor, 1838-1921

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Annie Edson Taylor was one of eight children of Merrick Edson. Her family owned a mill in Auburn, New York. The family was never poor and they got an adequate education. She met David Taylor during her studies and had a child together. Unfortunately, Annie’s first son died in childhood and soon did David. The following years she spent on teaching here and there.

It brought her finally to Bay City in Michigan where she hoped to become a dance teacher. In the absence of dance schools she opened one of them. Once settled, she moved again, this time to Sault Ste Marie. Here she gave music lessons and traveled further to San Antonio, Texas.

At 62, Annie decided that she wanted to arrange a good pension. For this she reasoned the Niagara Falls and rode in a wooden barrel. They had specially made for this purpose a barrel, made of oak wood, iron and covered with a mattress inside. However, it was not so easy to ride the Niagara Falls. Nobody wanted to help her at first with this very obvious suicide attempt.

She once told the press: “With my last breath I would do it this discourage anyone ever again. I’d rather walk straight into the mouth of a cannon knowing it was going to fire, but to do this again.”
She died at the age of 82, and was buried in the discounters department at Oakwood Cemetery, New York.

5 Calamity Jane, 1852-1903

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Martha Jane Canary was a woman who explored and discovered the frontier in America. She was a professional scout.

In addition, she was known as a good party to fight with Indians, but also as someone with compassion and kindness.

In 1874, at the age of 22, she took the position that would make her famous as a scout at Fort Russell. All her travel from her thirteenth taught Martha how to hunt. Unlike all the other ladies in this list Martha did not point to stow education; unlike the wilderness lessons where she was exposed to daily.

Her nickname came from one of the expeditions that she did for the army in their war against the Indians. Her measurements were forced to flee, and during its flight captain was hit by a bullet. While his horse sank, Martha managed to intercept him and bring it back in one piece. The captain in question gave her as a reward for this heroic deed, the name Calamity Jane. The surety is questionable though. Her name and her work brought her forth pitch and she bought her own ranch in 1881 in Montana. She opened a saloon and married Clinton Burke. They moved to Boulder, where she had a daughter who was given for adoption.

It then went downhill with Martha. In 1893, she began performing at a storyteller’s Wild West Show and took part in the Pan American Exhibition in 1901. She was by then depressed and an alcoholic. She died in 1903 in a hotel in Deadwood, a small village in South Dakota. She probably died of alcohol poisoning. She was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok.

4 Nellie Bly, 1864-1922

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Nellie Bly was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She gained fame as the lady who traveled around the world in 72 days. She also posed as a mentally disturbed woman in order to investigate how the mental institutions of that time looked like. She was the first journalist to do such undercover stuff to support her stories. Investigative journalism has its origins in Nellie Bly.

Nellie was born in Pittsburgh, on May 5, 1864. She was also called “Pinky” because she wore that color very often. Even though she was wore that sweet girl color, she herself was not a lady to drive to the harness.

A Pittsburg newspaper had a masculine article under the title “Where girls still good for this,” to which she wrote a shrewd and tough reaction to the editor of the newspaper. George Madden, the editor, was left impressed. Since he did not know who had sent the letter, he asked through an advertisement in his newspaper that the writer need to make themselves known. When Nellie did so, Madden immediately offered her an opportunity to write an article for the newspaper. After that first chance Madden offered her a full reporter job immediately.

3 Alexandra David-Neel, 1868-1969

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Alexandra David-Neel is known for her visit to the forbidden city of Lhasa, Tibet, in 1924. In addition she has 30 books to her name. Genre ranges from Eastern religion, philosophy, to her trips to the East.

Alexandra was born to Saint Mande, under the name Louise David, in October 24, 1868. Nothing is known of her childhood, except that she had a craving for freedom and travel. By eighteen she had been to England, Switzerland, Spain, and more. In 1890-91 she traveled to India, and only returned when she had no money.

In Tunisia, she met the techie Philippe Neel, and married him in 1904. The romance was short-lived as Alexandra travelled back India again, this time for studying Buddhism. She was invited to the holy monastery in Sikkim, where she met the Crown Prince Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal. She became his spiritual sister. She also met twice the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912.

Between 1914 and 1916 she lived in a cave in Sikkim. She along with another monk named Aphur Yongden taught spirituality. Aphur became her companion, but they were soon discovered and had to leave the province. They could not return to Europe and so they traveled to Japan. They tried again to reach Lhasa in 1924, disguised as pilgrims. She spent a total of two months in the holy city. Along with Yongden Alexandra traveled from place to place in India, China and Tibet. Only in 1946 she returned to Paris. She was 78 years old. Her lifelong companion Yong died nine years later at the age of 56.

All this time she stayed in Paris, wrote and studied them esotericism. She died at the age of 101 years, support the health of a Buddhist lifestyle. Her ashes, along with those of Yongden was scattered on the Ganges, all according to her own wishes.

2 Amelia Earhart, 1897-1937

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in a wealthy family in Atchison, in America. Amelia and her sister Grace were in fact not raised to be nice girls. At an early age moved the sisters out to adventures.

She worked as a nurse at the Red Cross busy taking care of victims of the First World War. In 1918, she saw a plane again, but attempted a study in medicine. However, in 1920, Amelia was offered a flight by Frank Hawks and that made her an addict aviator. She worked hard to pay for her flying lessons.

Her teacher was a pioneer, one of the first ladies in the air, called Anita Snook. Within two years, she flew in her bright yellow Canary to a height of 4,300 meters, and thus broke the record for female pilots. Amelia was just 26 when she became the 16th pilot who won her official pilots evidence.

All those brand recognition brought her to her famous flight across the Atlantic. On June 17, 1918, she left with a minimal crew and 20 hours and 40 minutes later they landed in Britain. In 1932 she decided to take a real solo flight across the Atlantic. It took her 14 hours and 56 minutes to land in Ireland, through sleet and fog.

During the second attempt, Amelia disappeared with her airplane, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. After a long search, the most expensive rescue operation that the United States had ever done, about 4 million dollars, was undertaken. And it did not succeed. Amelia was 40 when she disappeared mysteriously and although we can never expect evidence, it is likely that she found a watery grave in the Pacific Ocean, with a plane as coffin.

1 Junko Tabei, 1939

Greatest Female Explorers & Adventurers

Junko Tabei is the first woman who climbed Mount Everest. She was born in Japan on September 22, 1939 and studied English literature. Her adventuring rush led her to join a local rock climbing club. She formed a women’s club for Japanese mountaineering esters and climbed two famous peaks- Mount Fuji and the Swiss Matternhorn

As a media stunt, the Yomiuri newspaper sent a female team to Nepal to climb Mount Everest. Fifteen women in 1975 set for the Mount Everest. However, in May, their camp got hit by an avalanche, and the ladies were buried under a huge snow. For six minutes Junko too lost her consciousness before the Sherpas digged her out. Twelve days later, she was the first woman at the top of Mount Everest.

She was unstoppable. In 1992 she was the first woman to have climbed the Seven Summits. It includes a peak in Antarctica, Aconcagua (6961 meters) in South America, Mount McKinley (6194) in Alaska, Kosciuszko (2228 meters) in Australia, Kilimanjaro (5895 meters) in Africa, the Puncak Jaya (4884 meters) in Indonesia and the Elbrus (5642 meters) in the Middle East.

There have been many more women in history who have made pioneering discoveries and adventures. The list is small to fit in here.