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Women in Exploration (W12:D3)

Sadly, there are few women to report about. Most of the time, the only women that would sail were either pirates, or disguised as men. This was due to both skill and training, at the time, but also superstition that it was bad luck to sail with a woman. Some women found themselves loving the water and would disguise themselves as men; some were found out and those that were not, no one knows about. It is not likely that you would tell anyone after you returned, either, for fear of repercussions. Filipa Perestrello (1455-1484) the wife of Christopher Columbus, was a noblewoman of wealth, and not from a lower-class family, like Christopher. It is said that their marriage really was not ordinary, but without it, he may never have sailed to the Americas. Who knows?

Anacaona, Queen of Hispaniola (1474 - 1504), was a Taino noblewoman. Before Columbus arrived, the island was divided into five kingdoms. Xaragua was ruled by her husband, until his death, when she took over. Through her influence, there was peace in the land and the Spanish and Taino coexisted, and even intermarried. In Africa, Alexandrine Tinne (1836-1869) was the first European (Dutch) female explorer to attempt to cross the Sahara Desert. She traveled with her mother and aunt, and though they were halted by death and many failed attempts, were persistent, even up to her death. In Australia, Jane ‘Lady’ Franklin (1791-1875), was the wife of John Franklin, a successful explorer of the Arctic. When his expedition disappeared, she supported six expeditions to search for him, finding his frozen body. Activity: Famous women – What famous women do you know? Do any come to mind that you admire? For example: Madam C.J. Walker, first female, black millionaire; Jane Austin, famous writer; Anne Frank, who harbored Jews during the holocaust; Catherine the Great, who ruled over Russia; Sojourner Truth, American Abolitionist; or Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman who currently fights for women to be educated. These are all great examples and there are so many more. Pick one, and summarize their life below: _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________

Jeanne Baret (1740-1807) – As a French botanist, she sailed with the first French expedition to circumnavigate the world, in 1766, but she had to go in disguise.

Born into a poor family, she took to plants very easily, as her father was a farm laborer and she helped in his chores. Because they were poor, she had no traditional education, but possessed a strong understanding of plant life and medicine. As her full-time work, she became a housekeeper for Philibert Commerson, a medical botanist; she would help him collect his samples, and a friendship grew. Commerson’s wife died in 1762. Their friendship grew even more, and she had a child. Because they were not married, she gave the child up for adoption. A French Admiral invited Commerson on his voyage to explore for France, and Commerson said he would join if he could bring his assistant. Because of the law, Jeanne had to disguise herself as a man, and take on the name of Jean.

In 1766, Commerson and Baret set sail on the Étoile, to circumnavigate the globe. Commerson and his assistant were given the Captain’s quarters, because of the massive amount of equipment and space he needed, which also gave Baret a private bathroom. Baret became the ship’s surgeon, out of necessity. All throughout the journey, Commerson and Baret were allowed to leave the ship and collect plant specimens. During much of the voyage, there was a rumor that Baret was a woman, and it is unknown when exactly her gender was revealed. Whatever the truth was, when the ship began to run out of food, near the East Indies in Indonesia, Commerson met with an associate botanist, turned Governor. He stayed on shore as the ship returned to France, and Baret stayed as Commerson’s assistant. In 1773, Commerson died and Baret was granted her own property, starting a tavern in town.

In 1774 Baret married Jean Dubernat, a non-commissioned officer in the French Army, who was returning home. By this time, Baret had amassed large wealth, which she brought into the marriage. They sailed back to France together, and in 1785, she was recognized by the government of France to have circumnavigated the globe. Though illegally accomplished, she sued for the recognition and pension that came with it. She and her husband retired and lived long and quiet lives.

Activity: Botany Experiment – Find three plants and draw their leaves in the space below:

What is the difference in each plant? _____________________________________________




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