In honor of Women’s History Month this year, I decided to compile a list of inspiring quotes from female explorers and adventurers from history. I’ve finally finished and the month of March is almost over. It took a lot longer than I thought–I’d planned on doing 10 or 12 quotes but then I kept finding more fascinating women, and I finally had to stop at 30. I really enjoyed collecting these quotes–I even looked through collections of letters of some of the ones from the 1800s–and reading about the lives of these adventurous women. I hope you enjoy the quotes and reading about them as well!
Adventure is worthwhile in itself. – Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was an American aviation pioneer famous for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She broke many other aviation records as well and received the US Distinguished Flying Cross. She also wrote best-selling books about her adventures and even worked at Purdue University to counsel women on careers during her lifetime.
A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places. – Isabelle Eberhardt
Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) was a Swiss explorer and writer. She lived and traveled extensively in North Africa. She wrote stories and newspaper articles of her adventures in French. Isabelle was a free thinker of her time, dressing as a man to move about in African society, and she converted to Islam while living in Africa.
I’ve always had the feeling that nothing is impossible if one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction. If you want to do it, you can do it. – Nellie Bly
Elizabeth Cochrane (penname Nellie Bly, 1864-1922) was an American journalist, inventor, and charity worker. Inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, she set off on a round-the-world journey attempting to break the fictional account’s 80 day record, and she did. She completed the journey in 1889, traveling 24,889 miles, mostly alone.
I am a journalist and a ‘new woman’ if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do. – Annie Londonderry
Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky (1870-1947) was an entrepreneur, athlete, and globetrotter. She’s famous for being the first woman to bicycle around the world. She spent 15 months riding her bicycle around the world with a pearl-handled revolver and a change of clothes. Her journey was an inspiration and testament to womankind’s athleticism and ability to fend for themselves.
You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown. You travel for the unknown, that reveals you in yourself. – Ella Maillart
Ella Maillart (1903-1997) was a Swiss adventurer, sportswoman, travel writer, and photographer. She traveled all over the world, sailing the Mediterranean in a yawl, journeying from Peking to Kashmir with Peter Fleming, and searching for enlightenment in Tibet with a half-wild tiger-cat. She is most famous, however, for her solo journey through Central Asia in the 1930s.
I love traveling of all things; it is a constant change of ideas. – Lady Hester Stanhope
Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839) was a British socialite, traveler and adventurer. She lived and traveled extensively in the Near and Middle East and can be considered the first Biblical archaeologist.
Truly a good horse, good ground to gallop on, and sunshine make up the sum of enjoyable travelling. – Isabella Bird
Isabella Bird (1831-1904) was an English explorer, naturalist, writer, and photographer. She is known for being the first woman elected to the Royal Geographical Society and also became a member of the Royal Photographic Society. During her lifetime she visited Australia, climbed mountains in Hawaii, rode horseback over 800 miles of the Rocky Mountains in the US, journeyed through China, Japan, and Malaysia, studied medicine so she could be a missionary to India, traveled with Berbers in Morocco, and wrote multiple books about all of her adventures.
The important thing to know is that you’ve lived your life to the fullest… You could be a millionaire, and you couldn’t pay to do the things we’ve done. – Margaret Moth
Margaret Moth (1951-2010) was an adventurous photojournalist who covered the Persian Gulf War, the riots after Indira Ghandi’s assassination, the civil war in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the Bosnian War. She also enjoyed parachuting and was the first news camerawoman in New Zealand. Margaret Moth was known for her fearlessness, and even received a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Foundation. She died of colon cancer in 2010, but shortly before her death she said the quote above, a poignant reflection on living life to the fullest.
To awaken quite alone in a strange place is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. – Freya Stark
Freya Stark (1893-1993) was a British explorer and travel writer. She wrote over two dozen books on her adventures, spoke English, French, Italian, Arabic and Persian, and was one of the first Westerners to travel in the Arabian Desert, even locating the famous Valley of the Assassins. She lived in Europe when young and in later years traveled throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, including three dangerous treks into the Iranian wilderness, visiting countries like Iraq, Arabia, Afghanistan and Turkey and writing about them.
I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest. – Junko Tabei
Junko Tabei (1939-) became the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1975. She is a Japanese climber who, before climbing Mt. Everest had climbed the Mt. Fuji in Japan and the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Since the famous climb, she has become the first woman to climb the Seven Summits and is pursuing her goal of climbing the highest peak in every country and working as director of Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, which works to promote the preservation of mountain environments at a global level.
The element of discovery is very important. I don’t repeat myself well. I want and need that stimulus of walking forward from one new world to another. – Margaret Bourke-White
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was an American photographer. She worked on documentaries and was the first female photographer for Life magazine, her photo appearing on the cover of their first issue. She was also the USA’s first female war photojournalist and the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry. She traveled the world to document countries in times of war and transition, including some very influential photographs, such as Joseph Stalin with a smile (a rare occurrence), Dust Bowl drought victims, Russia under Communism, and other European countries under Nazism, and an iconic one of Mahatma Ghandi.
Climbing is unadultered hard labor. The only real pleasure is the satisfaction of going where no man has been before and where few can follow. – Annie Smith Peck
Annie Smith Peck (1850-1935) was an American mountaineer, explorer, and writer as well as being a pioneering professor in the field of archaeology. She climbed mountains all over the world–Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Mexico, and South America, and she was the first person to climb Mount Nevado Huascaran in Peru. She was also a suffragist, becoming president of the Joan of Arc Suffrage League in 1914 (in 1911, when she summited Mt. Coropuna in Peru, she left a banner that said “Women’s Vote” at the top) and traveled South America by air in 1929-1930, which was the longest journey by air of any North American at the time.
In exactly the same manner as the artist feels an invincible desire to paint, and the poet to give free course to his thoughts, so was I hurried away with an unconquerable wish to see the world. In my youth I dreamed of travelling–in my old age I find amusement in reflecting on what I have beheld. – Ida Pfeiffer
Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858) was an Austrian traveler and one of the first travel writers. She was a member of the geographical societies of Berlin and Paris, collected natural specimens on her journeys which she sold to museums, and wrote books which were translated into seven languages. She took two journeys around the world and visited such far-flung destinations as Madagascar, Tahiti, Indonesia, Egypt, Iceland, Brazil, Australia and the USA.
It should be known to them and stated in print that a woman was the initiator and special leader of this expedition. When, later, woman occupies her acknowledged position as an individual worker in all fields, as well as those of exploration, no such emphasis of her work will be needed; but that day has not fully arrived, and at present it behooves women, for the benefit of their sex, to put what they do, at least, on record. – Fanny Bullock Workman
Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925) was an American geographer, cartographer, explorer, mountaineer, and travel writer. She was one of the first female mountaineers and set multiple women’s altitude records. She traveled around the world with her husband, often on bicycle trips or climbing mountains. She was one of the first Westerners to explore the Himalaya region, the first woman to speak at the Sorbonne in France, and only the second to speak at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
The steward just asked me if I was not afraid to travel alone, and I said, ‘Why, it is life.’ – Emily Hahn
Emily Hahn (1905-1997) was an American journalist and author who was influential in opening Asia to the West. She was the first woman to receive a degree in Mining Engineering in 1926. During her lifetime she traveled 2400 miles across the US by car, lived with a pygmy tribe in the Belgian Congo for two years, crossed Central Africa on foot, lived in Shanghai with her pet gibbon while writing for The New Yorker, and was taken as a prisoner by the Japanese when they invaded, having to teach them English lessons in return for food.
I’ve wondered why men have so absolutely monopolized the field of exploration… I’ve never found my sex a hinderment; never faced a difficulty which a woman, as well as a man, could not surmount; never felt a fear of danger; never lacked courage to protect myself. I’ve been in tight places and seen harrowing things. – Harriet Chalmers Adams
Harriet Chalmers Adams (1875-1937) was an American explorer, photographer, and writer. She traveled throughout her life in South America, Asia, and the South Pacific and published accounts of her travels in National Geographic. Her adventures included crossing Haiti on horseback, retracing the Columbus’s early trails in the Americas, spent three years visiting South America, when working as a correspondent of Harper’s Magazine during World War I, she was the only woman allowed to visit the trenches, and she helped found the Society of Woman Geographers.
West Africa amused me and was kind to me and was scientifically interesting. – Mary Kingsley
Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) was an English explorer and scientific and ethnographic writer who traveled extensively throughout West Africa. Very unusually for the time, she traveled throughout Africa without a man to accompany her or being a wife of a missionary or explorer. During her journeys she studied African cultures, even criticizing missionaries for attempting to convert the African people and corrupt their culture, and climbed Mt. Cameroon by a route not previously attempted by another European, and canoed up the Ogooue River, collecting previously-unknown samples of fish.
I have now been to that unknown region and I shall return to it again, perhaps out of instinct, like a fly drawn to a flame. – Alexine Tinne
Alexandrine “Alexine” Tinne (1835-1869) was a Dutch explorer, photographer and ethnographer who traveled extensively in Africa and the Mediterranean. She and her mother became the first Western women to navigate up the White Nile in in 1862, and she was the first European woman to attempt to cross the Sahara. She made multiple attempts, wanting to meet the Tuaregs, but was unfortunately killed during her attempt in 1869.
I do not know the word ‘quit’. – Susan Butcher
Susan Butcher (1954-2006) was an American dog musher who was the second woman to win the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska, the second person to win the Iditarod four times, and the first person to ever win that race four out of five sequential years.
I feel walking is beyond walking for me. It let me feel like a little bridge between humans and nature and I’m there to try to understand and communicate this connection we’ve got. – Sarah Marquis
Sarah Marquis (1972-) is a Swiss adventurer and explorer. Between 2010 and 2013 she walked 12,000 miles alone, starting in Siberia and going through the Gobi Desert, China, Laos, Thailand, and across Australia. Before this trip, she had walked coast-to-coast across the USA in four months, spent 17 months walking across Australia, and hiked the Andes in South America for eight months. In 2014 she was named one of National Geographic‘s Adventurers of the Year.
Anyone who has spent any time in space will love it for the rest of their lives. I achieved my childhood dream of the sky. – Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova (1937-) is a Russian woman who was both the first woman and the first civilian in space. Before that she was a textile factory worker and amateur skydiver and parachutist. She became the first woman in space in 1963–she was chosen from more than four hundred applicants to pilot Volstok 6 because of her skydiving expertise.
Are we the same people I wonder when all our surroundings, associations and acquaintances are changed? – Gertrude Bell
Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was English writer, traveler, political officer, archaeologist and spy. During her life she traveled extensively in Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria, and Arabia. Along with T.E. Lawrence she played a major role in establishing dynasties in Jordan and Iraq. During her travels she discovered ancient ruins, climbed mountains, wrote about her journeys and traveled across Arabia six times.
My family has very strong women. My mother never laughed at my dream of Africa, even though everyone else did because we didn’t have any money, because Africa was the ‘dark continent’, and because I was a girl. – Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall (1934-) is an English primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She spent 55 years studying social and family interactions of chimpanzees in Tanzania. She loved animals and Africa since she was young and has passionately worked for conservation and animal welfare issues for her whole life.
At the beginning, my journeys feel at best ludicrous, at worst insane. – Kira Salak
Kira Salak (1971-) is an American adventurer, writer, journalist, and is a contributing editor at National Geographic. She is known for her daring travels, such as being the first woman to cross Papua New Guinea when she was 24 and becoming the first person to kayak the 600 miles of the Niger River to Timbuktu alone.
The real work of an expedition begins when you return. – Louise Boyd
Louise Boyd (1887-1972) was an American explorer and writer. She traveled extensively in Greenland and the Arctic, and became the first woman to fly over the North Pole in 1955.
When somebody tells me I cannot do something, that’s when I do it. – Gertrude Ederle
Gertrude Ederle (1906-2003) was an American swimmer, Olympic champion, and former world-record holder in five events. In 1926 she became the first woman to swim the English channel. Only five men had successfully done so before her, and the fastest time had been 16 hours 33 minutes. She set a new record that was almost two hours better: 14 hours and 34 minutes.
I follow my own head. And if I’m determined to do something, then I’ll make sure that I make it happen. – Laura Dekker
Laura Dekker (1995-) is a Dutch sailor who, in 2010, set off to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly in her two-masted ketch, and she accomplished it in 2012, at the age of 16 years 123 days.
I’m living my dream of doing the work Martin and I want to do, living in the great sunny, healthy out-of-doors, enjoying good food from our own garden, accomplishing what we believe is useful and important work, and we feel richer than anyone we know. – Osa Johnson
Osa Johnson (1894-1953) was an American adventurer, naturalist, photographer, and documentary filmmaker who, with her husband, Martin Johnson, studied the people and wildlife of Africa, the South Pacific, and Borneo. Their films and photographs and Osa’s autobiography, I Married Adventure (the best-selling non-fiction book of 1940), captivated audiences at home and inspired many to explore the world.
Great white sharks, big storms–somehow, I think we like to be put in our place by awesome things. Dinosaurs do that. – Sue Hendrickson
Sue Hendrickson (1949-) is most famous for being the namesake of “Sue” the most complete T. Rex bones ever found. She was part of the team who found her in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1990. Beyond paleontology though, she is a marine archaeologist, adventurer and explorer who has traveled the world, and discovered archaeological sites and fossils in locations from the Dominican Republic to the Philippines to Egypt.
It is not in my nature to admit defeat. – Alexandra David-Neel
Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969) was a Belgian-French explorer, writer, and spiritualist. She wrote over 30 books on religion, philosophy, and her travels, and is most famous for visiting Lhasa, Tibet in 1924, when it was forbidden to foreigners.
I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson/dose of inspiration! Women are often underrepresented in the fields of travel and adventure, but if you look a little closer you’ll see that there have always been women who dared to travel, explore and break boundaries.