I discovered this book during brunch at Community Table in Washington, Connecticut. The food there is amazing, and the decor is a beautiful, modern Scandinavian, but I was completely distracted by the books on the shelf next to our table. (I am known to be a little book crazy.) And one book in particular caught my eye: Women Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures, 1850–1950. As soon as I turned the pages, I became utterly captivated by the photographs and the women travelers, and I ordered a copy even before leaving the table. The book was published in 2007 and has quickly become a favorite. And seriously, I think everyone needs a copy. It tells the story of women adventurers who traveled through deserts and jungles, crossing all five continents, completely flying in the face of social convention. There’s Fanny Vandegrift, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson, who traveled from Indiana to Samoa, and American journalist Nellie Bly, who met Jules Verne’s challenge and went around the world in only 72 days. The stories are told through letters, newspaper clippings and the most amazing photographs. I think this would make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift (if you’re shopping early) or a gift for any intrepid traveler friend.
(I’m sure this goes without saying, but I feel it necessary to add that although I love the photographs in this book, I would never condone a modern woman saddling up a zebra as pictured above. I know I’m being crazy here. Thankfully, collective understanding of the fragility of ecosystems has evolved!) — Amy Azzarito
Image above: American travel documentary filmmaker Osa Johnson on a zebra in Kenya, ca. 1930
Image above: English travel writer and explorer Rosita Forbes. From 1920 to 1921, she was the first European woman to visit the Kufra Oasis in Libya.
Image above: Swiss explorer and writer Isabelle Eberhardt at age 18 in Algeria.
Image above: Margaret Fountaine
Image above: Osa Johnson