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Archive for the tag “Adventurous Women”

Adventurous Women: Dervla Murphy

Dervla Murphy, born in 1931, is an Irish cyclist and author of many travel books. As a child, she lived in Lismore, Co. Waterford. She received her first bicycle for her tenth birthday and decided she would like to travel. However, she spent her early life looking after her disabled mother and her first long distance trip did not occur until after her mother’s death.

Her 1965 book Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle was based on her first long distance cycle tour in which she journeyed overland through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Since then she has written over twenty more books. She has done volunteer work in India and Tibet and travelled through many countries including Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cameroon, Romania, Laos, the former Yugoslavia and Cuba. A lot of her travelling has been done solo but she has also journeyed with her daughter Rachel and visited Cuba with Rachel and her three granddaughters.

In later years, she moved into political writing and published work about Northern Ireland, nuclear power, the aftermath of apartheid and the Rwandan genocide, among other topics. She is the patron of Sustrans, a British sustainable travel charity, and the Lismore Immrama Festival of Travel Writing.

Her choice to travel such long distances alone shows that Dervla Murphy is a very brave woman. I think she must also be a determined and dedicated person to have accomplished so much. Altogether, definitely an Adventurous Woman!


She’s the very model of a female major general!

The British Army has appointed its first female general. Susan Ridge will be promoted to the two-star position of major general from September. She will be Director General Army Legal Services and in charge of a team of 130 lawyers. Ridge, a qualified solicitor, will advise commanding officers on discipline and complaints.

Susan Ridge

The first female general in the British Army

Ridge’s promotion comes at a time when there has been a lot of attention focused on the army. The debate is continuing over opening front-line roles up to women. More research is being done about the physiological strains that would be placed on women in combat roles.

Currently, only 8.9% of the 82,000 soldiers in the Britsh Army are women. General Sir Nicholas Carter, the head of the army, has said that he wants to increase that figure to 15% within five years.

It is to be hoped that Ridge’s promotion will set an example to girls and will show them that high-ranking roles are now open to women as never before.

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Adventurous Women: Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was a scholar, philosopher and feminist writer. She was born in London on the 27 April, 1759. She grew up with several brothers and sisters and her abusive father. Her mother died in 1780.

Wollstonecraft left home and opened a school with her sister Eliza and her friend Fanny. She wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters based on her teaching experiences.

After Fanny died, Wollstonecraft worked in Ireland as a governess. When she returned to London she found a job as a translator for a published of radical literature. In 1792 she published her most famous work, A Vindication of the Right of WomanA Vindication advocates education for women. Essentially, it makes the point that women deserve the same rights as men.

In the same year, Wollstonecraft met Captain Gilbert Imlay in France.  She gave birth to their child, who was called Fanny. She travelled to Scandinavia with him, which provided material for a personal travel narrative entitled, Letters Sent During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. After the trip, Imlay left her.

Wollstonecraft then began a relationship with William Godwin. The couple married in 1797, when it became apparent that she was pregnant. Her second daughter was named Mary, and would grow up to be Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft died ten days after giving birth.

Mary Wollstonecraft left a mixed legacy behind her.  For a long time there was little interest in her works, which were viewed as radical. Nowadays, she is recognised for her progressive ideas, which were far ahead of their time. She is an Adventurous Woman because of her courage as she fought convention in favour of the principles she believed in.

2014: A Summary

2014 has been an exciting year on Stand Strong Girls, with new campaigns and victories. In this post I will do my best to summarise some of the topics that have appeared here this year.


One of the issues I mentioned this year was the debate of single-sex education versus co-education. Drawing on my own experience in both types of schools, I tried to reason out the pros and cons from both points of view. While I still remain firmly in support of co-educational schools, I tried to appreciate the advantages of single-sex education as well.

I also wrote about women’s universities. Their numbers are growing in developing countries, where they are often women’s only option for higher education. However, in western countries their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years. I am of the opinion that women-only universities are just a short-term solution to the problem of women still being barred from many universities.


This year was Read Women 2014, a campaign started by writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh that encouraged people to read more books written by women. At the moment, I’m doing quite well, reading Code Name Pauline. It is about the experiences of Pearl Witherington Cornioley, an SOE agent during WWII. The book was edited by Kathryn J. Atwood. Earlier in the year I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, a novel based on SOE agents’ experiences.

Let Books Be Books campaign also kicked off this year. The campaign aims to put an end to the gender specific branding of books. Already several publishers and booksellers have got on board, promising to stop producing or selling gender specific books.

                               Adventurous Women

The Adventurous Women series began this year, a series of post about women who achieved, created or just did something different.  I have already written about the pilot Amelia Earhart, the nurse Mary Seacole and Sophie Germain, who was a mathematician. I also wrote about Katharine Wright, who helped to develop the first aircraft and Nadezhda Durova who served in the Russian cavalry. If you know of a woman you think deserves a mention, please let me know.


I’ve talked quite a bit this year about how children’s toys have changed from neutral and non-gendered to the pink and blue gender-specific toys that we know today. One example is Lego, which seems to think that girls can only build with pink blocks. However, this year Lego produced the Research Institute, featuring three female scientists.We saw it being put to good use by Donna Yates, who tweeted pictures of Lego scenes using the new set on @LegoAcademics.

                                  Malala Yousafzia

As an education activist, Yousafzia has made the news quite a few times in 2014. I read her book earlier this year, I am Malala, co-authored by Christina Lamb. Yousafzia also won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, along with Kailash Satyarthi, to recognise their struggle for children’s right to education.


I have written about campaigns such as HeForShe, Man Up and White Ribbon this year. One thing these campaigns have in common is that they are looking at the role men have to play in order to build an equal world. I think this approach is hugely important because it shows that inequality is not just women’s problem and that it is up to everyone to resolve it.

These are not all of the topics that I blogged about in 2014 but I think I have covered all of the bigger ones. I’ll be back in 2015. Happy New Year!

Adventurous Women: Nadezhda Durova

I thought I’d write about Nadezhda Durova to keep up with the military theme I started with my last post. Durova, who was born on September 17, 1783, was a soldier in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic wars. She disguised herself as a man and used various pseudonyms to become a decorated officer in the Hussars.

One of reasons for Durova’s importance is the memoir she wrote, entitled The Cavalry Maiden. It is one of the earliest autobiographies written in Russian, it is also significant because very few junior officers of the Napoleonic war had writings about their experiences published. Durova wrote about her warm feelings towards her father, her poor relationship with her mother and her military career, but nothing about her marriage.

Durova was born in Kiev, her father was a Russian major. As a child, she took great interest in the army and her favourite toy was an unloaded gun! She married and had a son, but in 1807 deserted her family and joined the army. Her acts of bravery were soon widely known and they came to the ears of the Tsar Alexander I. She was summoned to the palace at St. Petersburg, where she was decorated and promoted. The Tsar also gave her a new name, Alexandrov, so that her true identity could remain hidden.

Durova retired from the army in 1816. She wrote several novels and promoted women’s rights. She died on March 21 , 1866 and was buried with full military honours.

Nadezhda Durova was undoubtedly a most unusual woman for her time. Durova was strong-willed and determined to make her own way in the world. She was an Amazon in disguise in the Russian army. Durova’s story has not received the fame it deserves, for who can be more of an Adventurous Woman, than one who broke all social conventions and probably several recruiting laws, in pursuit of freedom and independence?

Adventurous Women: Katharine Wright

Katharine Wright, the sister of Orville and Wilbur Wright, was born in Ohio on 19 August 1874. Katharine was deeply affected by the death of her mother when she was almost fifteen. It meant she had to take on many more responsibilities at a young age. In 1893, her father sent her to Oberlin College, to study for a career as a teacher. Katharine ended up training as a teacher of classical languages. She graduated in 1898 and began her teaching career the next year, at the same time as Wilbur and Orville seriously began their aviation experiments.

Katharine gradually became involved in her brothers’ project, helping out with their experiments. In 1906, Wilbur and Orville obtained a patent for their flying machine. When the time came to try to sell their invention, Katharine assisted them, acting as a kind of secretary.

When Orville was injured in an accident, Katharine helped to nurse him and take care of the aeroplane business. After Orville recovered he and Katharine travelled to France. There, Katharine worked as a social manager for her brothers. In Europe, Katharine was taken for a flight several times, she was the third woman to fly in an aeroplane.

Later in life, Katharine became an active supporter of women’s right to vote. In 1926, she married Harry Haskell, whom she had first met at college. Katharine died in 1929 and is buried in Ohio with her parents, Wilbur and Orville.

Katharine supported her brothers during their experiments, sometimes playing an active part in them. She managed their business, engaging with contacts because Wilbur and Orville were too shy to do so. Katharine Wright was an Adventurous Woman, and only one example of a woman somewhat overshadowed by the achievements of her male relatives. There were other members of the family, but they weren’t involved in the aircraft business, yet she was but is hardly ever mentioned. In fact, I only recently learnt that the Wright brothers had had a sister!

If you know of more Adventurous Women, let me know…

Adventurous Women: Mary Seacole

This post is just a quick one, the next in the Adventurous Women series. This post is about Mary Seacole, who was a nurse in the Crimean war. Seacole was born in 1805, to a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother. She was brought up in Jamaica and learnt nursing from her mother.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole

At the outbreak of the Crimean war, Seacole applied to the War Office to assist, but was refused, possibly on grounds of her colour. This did not deter her, and she set about raising funds to travel independently. Once at the front, Seacole set up a hotel for wounded and convalescent British soldiers, providing them with food and medical assistance.

After the war, Seacole travelled to England, now almost destitute. A fund was set up to save her from bankruptcy, which was contributed to by many well-known figures. Seacole remained in England until she died in 1881.

Mary Seacole was largely forgotten after her death, but now has the place in the history books that she deserves. Mary Seacole was an Adventurous Woman because she defied social norms by travelling independently to do something she believed she should do, despite facing prejudice.

If you know of any other women you think should be featured as Adventurous Women, please leave their names in the comment box.

Adventurous Women: Amelia Earhart

‘Women who changed the world’ is a popular topic, so I’ve decided to put a slightly different spin on it. ‘Adventurous Women’ will be a long-running series of posts about women who did something new. It takes all sorts to make a world and you sometimes don’t have to do much to make a difference. Some of these women did amazing things, great feats of physical and mental endurance. Others just did something a bit out of the norm. They were all adventurous in lots of ways, and although they might not have changed the world, they made a difference.

The first woman I’m going to blog about is Amelia Earhart. Amelia Earhart was an American pilot. Born in Kansas, USA in 1897, she saw her first plane aged ten, and wasn’t at all impressed. What she was interested in, was women succeeding in traditionally male-dominated areas, such as engineering, law and management. During WWI, she worked as a nursing assistant in a military hospital and later went on to study medicine at university.

It wasn’t until 1920 that Earhart became interested in aviation. She went to an aviation fair with her father and had a ten-minute flight. After that, the was hooked. She found a flying instructor and started to take lessons. Her first plane was second-hand and was bright yellow. She called it ‘Canary’ and flew it to 14,000 feet, breaking the women’s altitude record in the process.

In 1928, while working as a social worker in Boston, she received a call asking her to join pilot Wilmer Stultz on a trans-Atlantic flight. The flight was organised by an American publisher called George Putman. Earhart became the first female passenger to fly across the Atlantic. Afterwards, she wrote a book about the crossing called 20 hours, 40 minutes and gave lectures.

However, Earhart didn’t stop there, in 1932 she flew solo across the Atlantic, breaking several records including the first woman to make the crossing solo and the shortest time for the flight. She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to recognise her achievements. In June 1937, she started on her last flight, an attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. She and her navigator Fred Noonan, set off and successfully reached New Guinea. Unfortunately, she, Noonan and their plane disappeared forever somewhere between New Guinea and Howland island in the Pacific Ocean.

Amelia Earhart was a pretty amazing woman, which is clear when you count up how many records she broke during her lifetime. However, it’s not only these records that make her the iconic woman she is today. Her courage and perseverance make her a role model for aspirational girls everywhere, not just pilots-to-be! One thing that did strike me while I was researching for this post was a quote from the end of a newspaper article about her, it reads, ‘But can she bake a cake?’ Apparently, some of the public felt uncomfortable with Earhart’s adventurous life. I find this very sad to read. In fact, the thought that women were still expected to lead ‘traditional’ lives, even at a time when women’s work and opportunities were changing, makes me feel uncomfortable, for an entirely different reason.

If you know of any potential ‘Adventurous Women’, please get in touch via the comment box…

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