History: Female First Circumnavigators

Today is International Women’s Day, so I’m dedicating this post to four intrepid women who circumnavigated the world.

Jeanne Baret (1740~1807)

Mode: sail
Duration: 2 years 3 months

Disguised as a man, Baret became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1760s as a member of the French expedition of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. She was an expert botanist and served in that role on the expedition although her contributions went largely unrecognized for centuries. In 2012, Solanum baretiae, which is a wild relative of the potato, was named in her honor.

Nellie Bly (1864~1922)

Mode: steam
Duration: 72 days

An American journalist, Bly was known for her undercover investigative work and her daring exploits, including infiltrating a mental asylum. Inspired by Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, she embarked on a solo journey around the world on 14th November 1889 from Hoboken, New Jersey. Traveling mainly by steam ship and steam train, she completed her journey in 72 days, setting a world record.

Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock (1925~2014)

Mode: airplane
Duration: 29 days

On 17th April 1964, Mock became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo by plane. Her carefully-planned journey took 29 days in her single-engine Cessna 180, “The Spirit of Columbus”. The top map is Mock’s flight path, courtesy of EarthSky.org. Mock deserves to be more well known, as she inspired future generations of female pilots. 

PS: Her granddaughter, Rita-Mock Pike co-edits the literary journal known as the MockingOwl Roost.

Valentina Tereshkova (1937~)

Mode: spaceship
Duration: 1 hour 28 mins

One year before Mock, on 16th June 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go around the world in orbit. She completed 48 orbits in 70 hours, becoming the youngest person at the time to travel to space. At 20,000 feet she ejected and parachuted back to earth.

All these women were trailblazers who defied societal limitations and inspired others to strive for the extraordinary.


PS You might also enjoy Intrepid Female Navigators.