10 Kick-Ass Female Travellers

Women have been kicking ass and taking names for years, it’s time we hear more about them! As a female traveller I thought it would be interesting to do a little research into my fellow women of gumption, and came up with this post of kick-ass female travellers.

1. Jeanne “Jean” Baré

Jeanne Baré

Jeanne Baré

Jeanne Baré is the FIRST woman to circumnavigate the world, however back in 1766, when she embarked on her journey. she did so dressed as a man. Jeanne travelled as man on Louis Antoine de Bourgainville’s ship Étoille, with her employer, botanist Philibert de Commerson, and she managed to stay undiscovered until the expedition arrived in Tahiti, where it’s said that the locals were quick to discover that she was a woman. What went down onboard after that is a bit of a mystery, but she was put in seclusion, and had a baby nine months later. Jeanne and Philibert were left on Mauritius, however after giving the baby up for adoption, she eventually returned to France, completing her round-the-world journey. It’s a fascinating story. This is a great book about Jeanne Baré.

2. Alice Huyler Ramsey

Alice Huyler Ramsey, first woman to drive across the USA

Alice Huyler Ramsey, first woman to drive across the USA

Alice was the FIRST woman to drive across the United States. On 9 June 1909, 22 year old Alice, along with three of her girlfriends (two sisters-in-law, and another friend, none of whom could drive), drove 3,800 miles from Hell’s Gate in Manhattan to San Fransisco. It took them 59 days. You can read more about Alice Huyler Ramsey here.

3. Baroness Raymonde de la Roche

Raymonde de Laroche

Raymonde de Laroche

Baroness Raymonde, born Elise Raymonde Deroche, was the FIRST woman in the world world to receive a pilot’s license. Issued by the Aero-Club of France, the Baroness received license number 36 of the International Aeronautics Federation. In 1913 Baroness de LaRoche won the Femina Cup for the longest non-stop flight. It was over 4 hours in length and awarded by Aero-Club of France.

4. Freya Stark

freya stark

Dame Freya Stark

In the early 1930s Freya Stark travelled into Persia (now Iran), exploring remote villages and interacting with locals, her book, The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels was published in 1934, and immediately captured the hearts of her readers. Dame Stark was by far one of the best travel writers of her time, and when she passed away at 100 years of age, she had a 3-column obituary in the New York Times.

5. Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

A world traveller, Gertrude Bell had a knack for languages and during her travels she become fluent in Arabic, Persian, French, and German. Gertrude was also a mountaineer, and she conquered a number of mountains in Switzerland. During World War I Gertrude played a roll in guiding troops through the desert, creating maps of the safest route for them to take, enabling the British to capture Baghdad. Gertrude is an absolutely fascinating and inspiring woman. I read a book on her life a few years ago and I have loved her ever since.

6. Isak Dinesen a.k.a. Karen Blixen

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen

Out of Africa was made famous by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, but it would not have been made had it not been for Isak Dinsen, the woman wrote about her life in Kenya after arriving in 1914 to look after a coffee plantation. Dinsen had married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, but shortly after arriving in Africa they separated and she ran the coffee farm for 10 years before returning to Denmark around 1931. This is one headstrong and gutsy woman!

7. Junko Tabei

Junko Tabei

Junko Tabei

A Japanses mountaineer, Junko Tabei was the FIRST woman to climb Mount Everest. Junko reached the summit of Everest on 16 May 1975. The climb was not without it’s perils, while camping at 6,300 metres there was an avalanche and Junko and her team were buried alive. Junko was dug out by her sherpa, and a week and a half later she became the first woman to summit Mount Everest. I say that is pretty kick-ass.

8. Barbara Hillary

Barbara Hillary

Barbara Hillary

If you’re looking for a travel pick-me-up look no further than Barbara Hillary, the FIRST Afrian-American woman to travel to both poles. In 2011 Barbara skied into the North Pole, she was 75. SEVENTY FIVE! Four years later Barbara travelled to the south pole, at age SEVENTY NINE. Making Barbara the first African-American woman to travel to both poles. This is one inspiring lady. Did I mention she is also a cancer survivor? Yep, she is.

9. Robyn Davidson

Robyn Davidson

Davidson said she felt the trip work magic on her in strange and unexpected ways. When there is no one to remind you what society’s rules are, and there is nothing to keep you linked to that society, you had better be prepared for some startling changes. (Photo by Rick Smolan/Against All Odds Productions)

In 1977 Robyn left Alice Springs, Australia with a dog and four camels. Why? She had decided to WALK 1,700 miles across Western Australia. The journey, as you may imagine, was not an easy one, but she did it. I’ve watched the movie about Robyn’s trek, as well as read her book, Tracks. I love her defiant strong nature. Robyn is a true kick-ass female traveler.

10. Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova was the FIRST woman, and civilian to fly into space. In June 1963 Valentina piloted Vostok 6, solo, into space. Valentina was 26 years old. Valentina orbited the earth 48 times before returning to earth three days later. After her foray into space Valentina earned a doctorate in engineering, and later went into politics. Valentina carried the olympic flag at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Do you have a favourite kick-ass female traveller?

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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3 Responses

  1. zoe

    Love these!

    My favourites not on the list are two women I heard about last year, Wendy Law Suart and Shirley Duncan. They cycled all around Australia when they were 19 and 21 in the 1940s, on bikes without brakes or gears (!) and were the first female cyclists to cross the Nullarbor. Apparently they had originally wanted to go to Europe but were talked out of it by their families who thought post-war Europe would be too dangerous — not sure what their families thought of them cycling around Australia instead!

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  2. Ulrike

    Love these and love that Tereshkova is on the list – she seems to be forgotten a lot. Also check out Ella (Kini) Maillart – she was definitely kick-ass: Olympian and traveler. Check out her book Forbidden Journey. It’s about a trip through china in 1926/27 which nearly never set off because of the political unrest. She eventually joined forces with Peter Fleming (Ian’s bro) and they both traveled together. Fleming’s book (News from Tartary) is much better known but Maillart’s book is more honest (less poetic licence) and more observant of the people and country she travels in.

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