Guest posts, Women's

How To Be A Lady And Win At Adventuring 3 Women Who Dared To Dream

So when it comes to being a lady, we all know what we have to do. We’ve all been raised in proper society. Basically…

Except, you know what?


So today, we have a slighly different post here on AvalinahsBooks. We are going to tell you about How To Be A Lady And Win At Adventuring™. And who is this ‘we’, you ask? Well, this is very exciting! Specifically for this purpose, we have a specialist on these matters over as a guest! Her name is Joanna Kafarowski, and she is none other than a female adventurer herself, a brave traveler to the North Pole! (I know, I am impressed too!)

Joanna is here to tell us more about these spectacular women who broke the stereotypes of their time, which belong almost just as much to our time as they did theirs. So without further ado, welcome Joanna onstage!

Joanna Kafarowski

Quick! Name three famous woman explorers or even any woman explorer at all. Sadly, the chances are good that very few people can name even one. Mary Kingsley, Isabella Bird, Gertrude Bell, Alexandra David-Neel, Freya Stark, Dervla Murphy, Christina Dodwell, Kira Salak… the list goes on and on. For readers who gravitate to the travel literature section in bookstores and who love diving into daring adventure stories, there are many excellent books but the vast majority are by and about men. Why are there so few books in print about women explorers? This was a question that resonated with me years ago and it was something I was determined to do something about. So I was delighted to receive a kind invitation from Evelina to write about books on women explorers.

Everyone has a weakness, right? My particular passion is polar exploration. In a previous life, I was a university lecturer specializing in women and natural resources in the Arctic. I had already worked extensively with Inuit women in the North and got to do fun stuff like following the reindeer herd with a female Saami herder in northern Finland and gut fish with a woman’s knife called an ulu above the Arctic Circle in Norway. I even participated in a Last Degree North Pole Expedition (Evelina’s interjection: I know right??!??!?!? A woman who basically runs with the wolves is guest posting on my blog!!) But when I started looking for books about women polar explorers, they were few and far between.

When I first heard the name “Louise Arner Boyd,” I learned only that she was an American polar explorer. There were a few children’s books about her but nothing else. This enigmatic woman stuck in my brain and slowly but surely, I began researching her life and her obsession with the Arctic. Like her, I was a geographer and I understood her drive to go North because I shared it. This has led, ten years later, to my soon to be published biography The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd.

Over a period of ten years, I criss-crossed Scandinavia and North America in search of this elusive woman. Everything I learned about her only intrigued me more. California-born socialite Louise Arner Boyd was born into a wealthy family financed by the gold rush. Inheriting a fortune when in her early thirties, she began leading a double life. Between 1928 and 1955, she organized, financed and led seven expeditions by sea to Greenland, Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. (Evelina’s interjection: I am pretty much seeing Pullman’s series here, except… in reality.)

Her bravery and scientific contributions won international renown and she received honorary degrees and awards from Norway, France, Sweden, Poland and the United States. Upon returning home to the United States, she maintained an active life as a society woman actively involved in her community. She poured her personal fortune into expeditions aimed at advancing modern science and satisfying her own profound curiosity about the North. Despite the high regard in which she was held by other explorers and scientists during her lifetime, Louise Arner Boyd paid a heavy price and her extraordinary life has largely been forgotten today. The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd is the first comprehensive biography of a female polar explorer.

Two other wonderful biographies of female explorers have been published this year. The Extraordinary Tale of Kate Marsden and My Journey Across Siberia in Her Footsteps (Adventuress Press, 2017) is written by British writer/adventurer Jacki Hill-Murphy (Evelina’s interjection: would you believe how much nobody cares about these awesome women?? I had to add this book to Goodreads myself!) Kate Marsden (1859-1931) was a British nurse, explorer, writer and missionary who undertook a hazardous journey across Russia to Siberia in a heroic search for a cure for leprosy. Hill-Murphy skilfully intersperses her own exciting modern-day journey tracing Kate Marsden’s path with Marsden’s life story. Hill-Murphy is also the author of Adventuresses Rediscovering Daring Voyages into the Unknown (Adventuress Press, 2014) which investigates other explorers including Isabel Godin who travelled the length of the Amazon River in the eighteenth century.

Trailblazing American mountaineer, educator, suffragist and journalist Annie Smith Peck (1850-1935) is featured in the aptly named A Woman’s Place Is At the Top (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) by Hannah Kimberley. During her lifetime, Peck’s claim to fame was her ascent of the Matterhorn at age forty-five, although this was due to the fact that she was wearing pants rather than because of the athletic feat itself. At the age of sixty, she scaled Mount Huascarán in Peru and continued to climb into her eighties. Kimberley adopts a more scholarly approach to her subject through an exhaustive examination of Peck’s life as an unconventional pioneer.

Louise Arner Boyd, Kate Marsden, Annie Smith Peck are just a few of the audacious women explorers who lived life on their own terms and whose remarkable lives and accomplishments are now shared with the world through these three biographies. If you have been inspired by Louise Arner Boyd, you can order her biography on Book Depository here, or on Amazon here (buying from book depository through that link will also contribute to this blog.)

There are so many other women’s lives waiting to be uncovered. Who will you learn about next?

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Rosie Amber
3 years ago

Fascinating, I can see these books going on my Christmas list, thank you so much for the insight.

Joanna Kafarowski
Joanna Kafarowski
3 years ago
Reply to  Rosie Amber

Thanks so much, Rosie! I love spreading the word about Louise Arner Boyd. Even after researching her for over ten years, I still find her fascinating!

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

What a delightful post Evelina! <3 If I were totally honest I would have to admit that I have zero interest in female explorers BUT I am so glad to have read your post and enlightened my mind about them!! I think it is so fascinating that Boyd was so fascinated by the north pole! And Peck was so excited to climb that she did so, so, so late in life! WOW!

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

I guess I didn’t understand!? hahhhahaha… I did read that it was a guest post but I think I assumed it was like a question and answer thing because of the way it was formatted with the bolded first lines. In any case Joanna was a good pick for a guest post! I enjoyed it…. <3

Sophie Eloy
3 years ago

Well these were just incredible women! I would never dare to do the same. Thank you for this post!

Brian Joseph
3 years ago

Great post.

Unfortunately, women’s contributions to history have been traditionally overlooked. Folks need to learn more about these contributions. These books all look vey good.

Joanna Kafarowski
Joanna Kafarowski
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Joseph

Thanks so much, Brian. I cannot agree with you more. There are so many amazing women’s lives still to be revealed.

Laura Thomas
3 years ago

You always floor me with your posts, Evelina. This one is above and beyond fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Joanna. Women rule!

Joanna Kafarowski
Joanna Kafarowski
3 years ago
Reply to  Laura Thomas

Thanks Laura for your kind words! Louise Arner Boyd lead an extraordinary life and I loved every minute of uncovering her joy in planning her expeditions and returning to the land far above the Arctic Circle which she loved best.

Anne Clarence @ The Reading Life

“How To Be A Lady And Win At Adventuring”


How every authors ever wrote their amazing bad-ass heroines

I’m sorry but I had to (please don’t hate me). Great article though! Authors can seriously learn a lot from this.

Anne Clarence @ The Reading Life

Exactly, and did you also notice that a lot of qualities in those amazing ladies also appears in amazing heroines in books 😉


[…] a little tough to read. And last but not least, I had a guest post by Joanna Kafarowski about How To Be A Lady And Win At Adventuring. So catch up with anything you might have […]

Karen Blue
3 years ago

These women and their stories sound like something I need to learn more about. Thanks for sharing these fascinating books!

Joanna Kafarowski
Joanna Kafarowski
3 years ago

And the really exciting part is that there are SO MANY other women whose lives are left to uncover! Louise Arner Boyd was an extraordinary (and real!!) person who defied societal expectations and followed her dreams. I feel privileged to tell her story.

Sim @Flipping Thru the Pages

You always come with so many amazing ideas Evelina! Just give me some ideas too 😛 This post is fascinating. I certainly didn’t know about all these amazing women. I love seeing such shows but never actually thought of reading something like this? But surely I am adding this in my TBR. Thanks for presenting such a beautiful topic 🙂

Lashaan Balasingam
3 years ago

I have to admit that this is one kind of book that I don’t gravitate towards or even plan on reading, but I did thoroughly enjoy this post because it pretty much highlights the huge accomplishments and the reality of it all without me having to get details. People intrigued by these adventures should totally try those books out, I’m sure it would motivate them to go on their own crazy adventures too! 😀 Thank you for sharing!

Hannah Kimberley
3 years ago

Thanks so much for including Annie Smith Peck in such an awesome list of women who dared!