In honor of the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage, we highlight women who have been pioneers in exploring the world over the past 100 years. These real-life women threw caution and convention out the window – such as the first women to ride motorcycles across the United States alone; the first woman to climb the highest peaks of all continents; and the first black woman to host her own travel television show and fly in her own plane to remote islands around the world. Although we will never take freedom of travel for granted after a pandemic, we owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneering women who paved the way for all our adventures – including those yet to come.
First black woman presents a travel TV series
Indonesia to Alaska
Kellee Edwards, host of Mysterious Islands on the Travel Channel, described by Outside magazine as “the most interesting woman in the world”, is a licensed pilot and experienced diver who flies to remote islands herself for adrenaline-fuelled adventures. These include exploring Indonesian caves with thousands of buried bodies, free diving with matriarchal women divers in South Korea and piloting an airplane in Alaska’s spirited Aleutian chain.
Start your day with our Top 5 articles
In the magazine
MrBeast Riddle Aftermath: The Beast reveals the cost, goal and history of his puzzle
Eight congress races could decide whether Biden will be the trump
Clarity about hydroxychloroquine
The lesson of COVID-19? Everyone needs a side blow
Undecided voters were the key to the 2016 trump card victory. Will they deliver again?
Joe Biden tells China that he will not be a weakling. Will Beijing believe him?
Will anyone ever call their child Karen again? An expert on baby names weighs
“I wanted to change the face of exploration and adventure. It’s not just white men, despite what history and the media would have you believe,” Edwards says about what motivated her to take this unexplored path.
Read our questions and answers with Kellee Edwards.
Who were the “most interesting women in the world” before her?
Hoboken, New Jersey
As a pioneer of American journalism who fought for women’s rights, Nellie Bly once spent 10 days in the infamous women’s shelter on Blackwell’s Island in New York City for an investigative exposé. She is also known for beating the record “Around the World in 80 Days”, inspired by the novel by Jules Verne. In 1889 she circumnavigated the world by steamship, train, rickshaw, horse and donkey – all in 72 days.
Van Boers Sisters
From New York City to San Francisco
Sisters Augusta Van Buren and Adeline Van Buren were the first women to ride solo motorcycles across the continental United States in 1916 – a journey of 60 days and 5,500 miles. Their cross-country ride showed that women in World War I could serve as military couriers for intelligence reports just as men could.
First black female pilot
Le Crotoy, France
“The air is the only place free of prejudice,” said American Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to obtain her pilot’s license. Back in 1921, in France, she was also the first black woman to obtain an international pilot’s license. As an African-American and Native American, “Queen Bess”, as she was known, performed air stunts and raised money for an African-American flying school.
The first woman to fly around the world
Aloha travelling wave
As the “most widely travelled girl in the world”, Aloha Wanderwell lived the life of an adventure film: During a seven-year expedition she drove through six continents behind the wheel of a Model T Ford. In 1922, when she was only 16 years old, she joined a caravan of automobiles that circled the globe and quickly became the star and director of the films shot throughout the expedition, along with her pet monkey.
First woman on the summit of Mount Everest
Himalaya Mountains, Nepal
This Japanese pioneer of mountaineering defied alarmists who advised her to “stay home and clean the house”. In 1975 she became the first woman to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Next, she took on the “Seven Summits”, the highest mountain on every continent, and was the