0 comments / Posted on by Mamie Colfox

 

(Women of Discovery,  £15 in store)

Women of Discovery is a series of more than eighty stories celebrating female adventurers and explorers, recounted vividly and illustrated with drawings and photographs. Accounts range from Vikings and the Renaissance to the 1970s, with discoveries including the colonisation of El Dorado, Balinese dancing rituals and voodoo. Not as much a coffee table book like Suzanne Syz or Butler & Wilson, but more an informative ‘bible’ of the innovation of women.

 Here I’ve chosen three of my favourite stories to sink your teeth into.

 

To the Ends of the Earth

 In 178 AD, Mongols kidnapped 12-year-old Lady Wen Chi, daughter of a Chinese statesman of the Han Dynasty,   involuntarily leaving behind her life of luxury to lead a nomadic existence as a captive bride. She bore two children with the Mongolian chief but suffered extreme loneliness.

Fifteen years after her capture Wen-Chi was ransomed by Chinese officials. She either had to return to civilization or stay with her husband and children. She chose to return to her home but made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her children behind. Her poetry reveals her pain “now I must abandon my children in order to return home. Across ten thousand miles of mountains and rivers… I was grieved then by coming away, and now I hate returning…” When she eventually returned to the Chinese court, she recorded her journey in Eighteen Songs of a Nomadic Flute, a series of her nomadic experiences, something which, until then, had been so foreign to Chinese culture.

 

Adventure Has its Costs

Elizabeth van der Woude’s diary outlines her voyage to El Dorado in great detail. Daughter of colonist Harman van der Woude, she took to the waters in 1676 with her father, sister and brother, intending to colonise the South-American city. Sailing the Atlantic was incredibly dangerous, with running aground and very poor steering constant worries, along with fruit and vegetable rot leading to scurvy.

Two months after her father died of disease on board, van der Woude landed in El Dorado. She recorded its strange animals in her diary; “There was an abundance of wild beasts such as deer, pigs, tigers, leopards, baboons, apes, sloths, saguwyne, crocodiles, sea turtles and tortoises”. She goes on to describe exotic fruits unknown to her, like bananas, pineapples and coconuts, but despite these exciting surroundings the novelty wore off, leading to van der Woude sneaking on to a departing ship and returning to her life in the Netherlands.

 

Coming of Age in the South Pacific

The American Anthropologist Margaret Mead studied at Barnard College in the 1920s with the well-known anthropologist Franz Boas. She left to Somoa in the South Pacific at 23 years old and spent her first year studying Polynesian tribes on the Island of Tau. A hurricane wiped out the island, forcing Mead and her companions to take refuge in a cement water tank to avoid the storm.

When she returned home, she published her first book Coming of Age in Somoa, and became one of the youngest curators at the American Museum of Natural History.

She also went on to study tribes in New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands and Bali, photographing and filming Balinese dance and child-rearing techniques. With the help of her third husband, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, she became one of the first social scientists to study the ‘nature’ or nurture’ question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Women of Discovery,  £15 in store)

Women of Discovery is a series of more than eighty stories celebrating female adventurers and explorers, recounted vividly and illustrated with drawings and photographs. Accounts range from Vikings and the Renaissance to the 1970s, with discoveries including the colonisation of El Dorado, Balinese dancing rituals and voodoo. Not as much a coffee table book like Suzanne Syz or Butler & Wilson, but more an informative ‘bible’ of the innovation of women.

 Here I’ve chosen three of my favourite stories to sink your teeth into.

 

To the Ends of the Earth

 In 178 AD, Mongols kidnapped 12-year-old Lady Wen Chi, daughter of a Chinese statesman of the Han Dynasty,   involuntarily leaving behind her life of luxury to lead a nomadic existence as a captive bride. She bore two children with the Mongolian chief but suffered extreme loneliness.

Fifteen years after her capture Wen-Chi was ransomed by Chinese officials. She either had to return to civilization or stay with her husband and children. She chose to return to her home but made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her children behind. Her poetry reveals her pain “now I must abandon my children in order to return home. Across ten thousand miles of mountains and rivers… I was grieved then by coming away, and now I hate returning…” When she eventually returned to the Chinese court, she recorded her journey in Eighteen Songs of a Nomadic Flute, a series of her nomadic experiences, something which, until then, had been so foreign to Chinese culture.

 

Adventure Has its Costs

Elizabeth van der Woude’s diary outlines her voyage to El Dorado in great detail. Daughter of colonist Harman van der Woude, she took to the waters in 1676 with her father, sister and brother, intending to colonise the South-American city. Sailing the Atlantic was incredibly dangerous, with running aground and very poor steering constant worries, along with fruit and vegetable rot leading to scurvy.

Two months after her father died of disease on board, van der Woude landed in El Dorado. She recorded its strange animals in her diary; “There was an abundance of wild beasts such as deer, pigs, tigers, leopards, baboons, apes, sloths, saguwyne, crocodiles, sea turtles and tortoises”. She goes on to describe exotic fruits unknown to her, like bananas, pineapples and coconuts, but despite these exciting surroundings the novelty wore off, leading to van der Woude sneaking on to a departing ship and returning to her life in the Netherlands.

 

Coming of Age in the South Pacific

The American Anthropologist Margaret Mead studied at Barnard College in the 1920s with the well-known anthropologist Franz Boas. She left to Somoa in the South Pacific at 23 years old and spent her first year studying Polynesian tribes on the Island of Tau. A hurricane wiped out the island, forcing Mead and her companions to take refuge in a cement water tank to avoid the storm.

When she returned home, she published her first book Coming of Age in Somoa, and became one of the youngest curators at the American Museum of Natural History.

She also went on to study tribes in New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands and Bali, photographing and filming Balinese dance and child-rearing techniques. With the help of her third husband, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, she became one of the first social scientists to study the ‘nature’ or nurture’ question.

 

 

 

 

 

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