3 Female Explorers That Inspire Me As A Writer
Today marks the ending and the beginning of a literary journey for me. I’ve spent the last 6+ years putting together a novel that celebrates adventure, storytelling, and science in what I feel is my own voice. I’m not sure what will interest me as I wander through my 30’s, but these thematic elements were the highlights of my 20’s and I’m happy to share them with whoever wants to live through them through this story.
Through out the writing process, “The Very Strange Universe of Natalia Zeal” became an ode to not only the aforementioned story components, but women in particular. I feel as if I’m walking a very thin line between a celebration of female endeavors and something that could be considered pandering. I hope the latter doesn’t prevail as popular opinion, as this clearly was/is not my intention.
Now to the point of this post: I wanted to write an article in-line with my novel’s release to serve as a companion piece to talk about some of the female explorers that inspired me as a writer and continue to inspire me in my writings. Let’s dive in.
1. Isabella Bird
First on my list is Isabella Bird; a nineteenth-century English explorer, writer, photographer, and naturalist. She was also the first woman to be chosen Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. For me, Isabella personifies naturalist writing in the nineteenth/twentieth century. Her reason for travelling and writing makes her story even more interesting: a tumor on her spine.
She used her newly gained funds to travel to North America where she explored Canada and the then 31 states and 4 organized territories of the United States, (Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah). During her trip, she wrote continuously to her sister, Hennie, back in Europe. These letters would eventually serve to create her book, “The Englishwoman in America”.
One of the things that sticks out most to me about her is how outspoken she was, even as a child. She always said exactly what she thought and was able to share a world most of us dare not explore and can not explore here in 2019. Her book showcases an almost scary version of a far away place filled with thieves and annoyances as she wandered through Boston, Cincinnati, and Chicago, as well as her crossing of the sea from England to Halifax. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, as she dives into the ethnic diversity of America’s newest inhabitants.
After her first book, she went on to write several more. One of her most notable being “Sandwich Islands” published in 1875 in which she recounts her 6 month visit to Hawaii, which was not yet a U.S. state and wouldn’t be for several decades. This seems like one of her most enjoyable moments while adventuring and living among the Hawaiian/Polynesian culture. Later on in life, she visited and wrote about Japan, The Rocky Mountains, and more.
I put Isabella on this list because she was a fantastic storyteller and continues to inspire me and countless others. I recommend exploring her writing and finding out more about this wonderful adventurer. Her journey to North America is hopefully complemented by the fictitious Natalia Zeal that guides my own story.
2. Amelia Mary Earhart
What female adventurer’s list would be complete without the famous, Amelia Earhart? Her legendary story is known by many and is someone who has impacted me in a really special way via my father. This is because he wrote a poem about her many years ago that he later gave me a copy of.
Most know Amelia because of her death while flying through the infamous Bermuda Triangle and her insatiable appetite for aviation, but there was a lot more to her story. This included breaking the women’s altitude record when she rose to 14,000 feet, first woman to fly across the Atlantic, published the book “20 Hours 40 Minutes”, and was elected as an official for National Aeronautic Association along with a plethora of other achievements.
Amelia wasn’t immediately impressed with airplanes however, that is until she attended a stunt-flying exhibition in the early 20th century. Everything changed after that and was pushed further by her ride with pilot Frank Hawks on December 28, 1920.
It wasn’t just my dad’s song about her that interests me in Amelia’s story. She’s proof that although life is short, there’s no reason we can’t excel in as many areas of life as possible; she certainly did. I’m amazed as I write this article and read through her long list of accomplishments. She achieved more than most humans will ever hope to and I’ll be singing her praises until the day I pass too.
3. Bessie Coleman
Last, but certainly not least, I’ve put Bessie Coleman on my list of inspiring, female explorers. Bessie was the first African American woman to stage a public flight in America. I think the thing that makes her stand out further is how hard she worked for her dream of obtaining a piloting license. Since racial discrimination ran rampant in the United States in 1922 and she was refused entry to flying schools, Coleman took upon herself to learn French and get her license in France.
Like Amelia, Bessie was interested in stunt piloting as well as parachuting. She later opened a flying school for African American women so that future generations wouldn’t have to endure what she had. Tragically, Bessie Coleman died at a young age due to a crash at a rehearsal for one of her shows.
Bessie inspires me with her tenacity and her general attitude of never taking “no” as a response to her dreams. She continues to inspire to this day and was a main proponent in how I developed Natalia’s character in my book.
I hope I did these amazing women justice through this article and through the character traits I gave to Natalia Zeal in, “The Very Strange Universe of Doctor Natalia Zeal”. If you’d like to learn more about these inspirational female explorers and boundary-breakers, check out the links below. You may also be interested in my “Women of Science Series” I put out a couple years ago. Thanks for reading and feel free to share this article!