25 Fearless Lady Explorers You Should Know

For every man explorer, there is a woman counterpart. These 25 women forged their own paths all around the world.

Scroll down to watch the video

We know all about Columbus sailing the ocean blue, about Henry Hudson and Jacques Cartier and about a dozen other men who have been memorialized for their brave and daring adventures in the name of exploring and discovering new lands.

For Every Man Explorer, There Is a Woman Counterpart:

We get it: Men were responsible for literally drawing the map of the world.

But do not, for one moment, think women have sat idly by, knitting and fretting and clutching pearls, too meek and frail to do more than sit in a rocking chair and wave a hanky while waiting for husbands, sons and brothers to return.

Image Source: Hannah Cowan, BLM Utah

For every man explorer, there is a woman counterpart. In some cases, her expeditions are even more courageous because of the barriers standing in the way of accomplishing her goals, just because she’s a woman.

Let’s take a look at a few women who helped break those barriers while opening up the world to everyone.

25. Barbara Hillary

Barbara Hillary

She might share a surname with the first man to climb Everest successfully, but Barbara Hillary made her own way. Born in Harlem in the 1930s, she loved going to museums and checking out fancy car showrooms as a child.

Her mother, Viola Jones Hillary, was her inspiration, teaching the value of hard work and pursuing dreams and education above all else. Barbara survived breast cancer in her 20s, and then  losing 20 percent of her lung capacity following surgery to address lung cancer at 67. After these significant health problems, Barbara decided to go to Manitoba to photograph polar bears.

She then decided to keep her adventurous streak going, dog sledding in Quebec on her way to becoming the first African-America woman to reach the geographic North Pole. Then, she turned around and became the first African-American woman to reach the South Pole as well.

Barbara Hillary.

She’s also among the oldest people to set foot in either place — she was 76 when she reached the North Pole and 79 when she reached the South Pole.

Sources: Aging Horizons, BarbaraHillary.com

24. Bessie Coleman

Source: IIP Photo Archive / Wikimedia

Bessie Coleman was determined to become a pilot. When flying schools in the U.S. wouldn’t allow her to enroll, being an African-American woman, she went to France. The Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation accepted her and, after seven months, she earned her license.

Not only did she become a pilot, making her the first African-American woman to do so, she specialized in stunt flying and parachuting. Coleman made a career out of performing aerial stunts for spellbound audiences, barnstorming and putting on shows.