Saturday, January 4, 2014

Women Explorers: Perils, Pistols, and Petticoats

Between the covers of Women Explorers: Perils, Pistols, and Petticoats, by author Julie Cummins and illustrator Cheryl Harness, are ten short biographies of astounding women explorers born in the nineteenth century, none of them I'd ever heard of. That is because women explorers of that time didn't make it to the history books. Each had done what few women, or men, ever even dream of doing.

The exploits of Louise Arner Boyd, a wealthy San Francisco woman, at least made it to local newsprint: "San Francisco Woman in Arctic . . . to hunt polar bears, seals and other Arctic animals."

It was a good thing Boyd was so handy with a gun because " . . .when she was photographing for the National Geographic, Louise had to be on constant guard for attacks by rogue musk ox." Her maps of the Arctic played a role in the military during World War ll.

Nellie Cashman was as poor as Boyd was wealthy. Cashman was born in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century and emigrated with her family to America to avoid starvation and became a gold prospector. She once lived sixty miles south of the Arctic Circle, surviving blizzards "without food or blankets and relied on homemade rafts to traverse raging rivers. She was successful in supporting herself but never forgot what it was like to be hungry. She always shared her wealth, giving to charities, churches and to the poor.

But as some explorers were drawn to frigid climates, others made names for themselves traveling the Amazon, climbing the Matterhorn, searching for the source of the Nile river and much more. I came away sure that not all human beings are created equally in terms of physical stamina, though most people today could tax their physical capabilities more than they do.

The women explorers in this book would never be happy just reading about extraordinary adventure. I hope this will be true for some of the middle grade dreamers who discover Cummins' biographies.


  1. I will look for this book. I love books like this on the achievements of women.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I've been busy and my blogging has taken a hit, but it helps to hear from you. And I will get back to yours, too.