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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Calamity Jane (01 May 1852–01 August 1903), legendary western woman, was born Martha Cannary in Princeton, Missouri, the daughter of Robert Cannary (also spelled Canary). Her mother’s identity is unknown. In 1865, enticed by news from the Montana gold fields, her father moved the family to Virginia City, Montana. After her mother died in 1866, the family settled in Salt Lake City. Following her father’s death in 1867, an adolescent but determined Calamity Jane traveled to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From there she embarked upon the transient existence that would characterize her life in the West, especially in the Black Hills mining camps of South Dakota and Wyoming....

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Duniway, Abigail Jane Scott (22 October 1834–11 October 1915), Oregon pioneer and suffragist, was born in Tazewell County, Illinois, the daughter of John Tucker Scott and Ann Roelofson, farmers. Duniway attended school sporadically, restricted by her responsibilities on her parents’ farm. In March 1852, in spite of his wife’s hesitations, John Scott decided to move his family to Oregon. With thirty others, in a caravan of five wagons, the family set off on the 2,400-mile trek. Ann Scott died of cholera in June; her three-year-old son Willie passed away two months later. By October the party had reached Lafayette, near Salem, Oregon, where they settled. Abigail taught school in the neighboring village of Eola and worked on her father’s farm. In August 1853 she married Benjamin Charles Duniway, a farmer who had moved to Oregon three years earlier; they had six children. The early years of her marriage were especially hard on Abigail, who bore two children in quick succession and also was obliged to take on many of the physically taxing, traditionally male tasks on the farm. The family moved to a farm near Lafayette in 1857. Duniway’s first novel, ...

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Liliuokalani (02 September 1838–11 November 1917), last sovereign queen of Hawaii, was born in Honolulu, the daughter of high chief Kapaakea and the chiefess, Keohokalole. Her father had been a close adviser of King Kamehameha III. Lydia, as she was named, was hanaied...

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Nampeyo (1859–20 July 1942), Native American potter, was born in Tewa Village (Hano), First Mesa, Hopi reservation, Arizona, the daughter of Qotsvema, a Hopi farmer from Walpi, and Qotcakao of the Corn Clan at Hano. She was named Tcumana (Snake Girl) by her paternal grandmother because her father was of the Snake Clan; however, her Tewa name, Numpayu (“Snake that does not bite”), was more commonly used because she lived at Hano....

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Patten, Mary Ann Brown (1837–18 March 1861), navigator and sailor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of George Brown and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Married in April 1853 at the age of sixteen, she accompanied her husband, Captain Joshua Adams Patten, on two voyages aboard his ship, the major shipbuilders Foster & Nickerson’s big vessel, ...

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Pocahontas (1596–21 March 1617), Virginia Algonquian "princess" and a key mediating figure in Anglo-Indian relations in the Jamestown colony, Virginia Algonquian “princess” and a key mediating figure in Anglo-Indian relations in the Jamestown colony, also known as Matoaka or Amonute, was the daughter of ...

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Rowlandson, Mary White (c. 1637/38–05 January 1710), author of the earliest full-length Indian captivity narrative, was born probably in England shortly before her parents, John White and Joan (maiden name unknown), landowners, immigrated to New England in 1639. Mary White was brought up in a comfortable household. When her father died in 1653, he was the wealthiest landowner in Lancaster, Massachusetts, with an estate valued at £389. Around 1656 she married Joseph Rowlandson, who was ordained in 1660 and became a prominent member of the Puritan clergy. They had three children (a fourth died in infancy)....

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Winnemucca, Sarah (1844?–17 October 1891), spokeswoman for the Northern Paiute, was born near the sink of the Humboldt River in western Nevada, the daughter of Winnemucca, a Paiute chief, and Tuboitonie. In 1857 Chief Truckee, her maternal grandfather, arranged for Sarah and her younger sister Elma to live in the household of his friend, Major William Ormsby, a Virginian who managed a stage line at Mormon Station (Genoa). The girls worked at domestic chores and helped serve passengers at his stage stop. They were also companions to Ormsby’s only child, nine-year-old Lizzi. Here Sarah and Elma learned to read, write, and sing in English, picked up some Spanish phrases, and studied American history and the Bible. One year later the Ormsby family and the Paiute girls moved to Carson City, but in late September 1859 Sarah and Elma were suddenly called home by their father....