Recommended Books on Women Explorers

Women Who Broke With Conventions

Here are some of my recommendations for books on women explorers -- women who flouted convention to travel to the corners of the earth -- and some into space, or even into the realm of new ideas. They make great reading for yourself and they also make great gifts.
01
of 10

They Went Whistling

Subtitled "Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades," by Barbara Holland. A quirky tour of women who traveled and explored, flouting convention and making their own way in the world. Sound scholarship, but presented in a more popular style, often with wry humor.
02
of 10

On Top of the World: Five Women Explorers in Tibet

Luree Miller brings us the stories of three "English lady travelers," one American mountaineer, and a French "scholar adventurer." The names will be unfamiliar to most readers, but the stories are fascinating. The focus is on mountaineers who went to Tibet - but anyone interested in adventure and with women in unconventional roles is likely to find the book interesting.
03
of 10

Women of Discovery: Celebration of Intrepid Women

Milbry Polk and Mary Tiegreen present some well-known explorers, and plenty who won't be known to most readers. The contemporary touches - maps, original documents, photos - really bring the women's adventures to life. Includes not just geographic explorers, but some who explored new ideas, too.
04
of 10

Victorian Lady Travelers

Dorothy Middleton tells the stories of seven English and American women who traveled and worked on many continents (and a few islands) -- all women who broke through the expectations of domestic tranquility and went far from home to find adventure.
05
of 10

East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart

Susan Butler's 1999 biography of the famous aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart, tells the whole story, and not just her famous exploits as a pilot. Her friendships and her politics are here as well. The book gains much by the digging of the author into letters, journals and archives and many interviews with those who knew Earhart.

06
of 10

Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark

A fascinating biography of an eccentric, courageous and passionate woman whose adventures as a woman traveling alone in the Middle East made her a pioneer. The author, Jane Fletcher Geniesse, roots Stark's bravery in her childhood and, paradoxically, her insecurities.
07
of 10

Living With Cannibals and Other Women's Adventurers

Michele Slung has produced this volume with the National Geographic Society, presenting the stories of women explorers from the 18th century to very recent years. Exploring the earth -- or space -- these women test their emotional and physical limits, and break through the expected limits on women.
08
of 10

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II

Penny Colman on how brave women used words and photos from the front lines of World War II to magazine and newspaper readers back home. Women weren't in the combat forces -- but they were often working as reporters alongside and among them. Appropriate for older children, and will keep most adults interested too.
09
of 10

The Desert and the Sown

Gertrude Bell, who called herself "the Female Lawrence of Arabia" (the male one was a contemporary and ally), traveled the Middle East. She came to wield real influence - she helped to map the area and thereby shape its later politics.
10
of 10

Women into the Unknown: A Sourcebook on Women Explorers and Travelers

Marion Tinling has produced a great compilation of the stories of women exploring the unknown in the 19th and 20th century: 45 English, American and European women. The expense may keep many from this volume, but check online for used copies if you just have to have it and can't afford the full price.