It's now less than a month to the publication of The Family Way, my 12th mystery novel featuring Molly Murphy, female detective in the early 1900s. And since so many people have queried whether a woman of her time could do brave and daring things, I have decided to feature some of the amazing women of her era.
Following last week's feisty female detectives, I'm focusing this week on female explorers, of whom there were too many to mention. When you think how primitive and dangerous travel was at this time in much of the world, and how cheap the lives of women, their exploits are all the more remarkable.
Let's start with Lady Hester Stanhope who went out to the Middle East in 1815, was shipwrecked on Rhodes and adopted the garb of a warrior. She traveled throughout the region, through what is now Syria and Lebanon, making friends with the potentates who ruled it, refusing to wear a veil and instead continuing to dress as a man and move among men. She settled in Sidon in her own hilltop fortress and was the first to excavate an archeological site in the Holy Land.
Gertrude Bell followed in her footsteps, traveling throughout the Middle East, sometimes also disguised as a man and was one of the founders of the modern state of Iraq. She was at the same time as Lawrence and commanded the same amount of respect from the Arabs. In fact it was said she was one of the few foreigners for whom the Arabs of the region showed any affection.
Isabella Bird was a sickly child in Scotland but set off nonetheless for a journey to America, from there to Hawaii, Australia and India. She later traveled to Morocco and rode among the Berbers. She wrote about her travels and became a legend in her own time. She was the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographic Society in 1892.
Delia Akeley was born in Wisconcin in 1972. With her husband she went to Africa and traveled widely. She was one of the first westerners to explore the desert between Kenya and Ethopia, and traveled the Tana River in a dugout canoe (avoiding the hippos)
Later came such figures as Louise Boyd who mounted her own expedition to the North Pole, Amy Johnson who was the first person to fly between London and Australia, and of course everyone knows Amelia Erhard. But to this list should also be added all those brave women who set off across the continent, walking behind a covered wagon, burying children along the way, sometimes burying husbands and continuing on alone.
There were always strong, independent women, who defied convention, faced danger... it's just that we don't hear about them much because history is exactly that. Written by men about men.