Two years ago I spent my Spring Break visiting Colleen at RISD, helping with an Anchal event and exploring new parts of the East Coast, when I came across the most amazing book: Women Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures 1850-1950. This book quickly became a favorite of mine, with stunning photographs and 31 incredible stories of courageous and determined women. It shares stories of women traveling around the world through jungles and across deserts, escaping social convention disguised as men, and challenging the roles of men by surviving when men could not.
Author Alexandra Lapierre writes, “These women’s curiosity about the world and their quest to find their own truth required one particular type of courage: the courage to disobey… in order to become footloose- an independence of heart and mind that would carry them to the ends of the earth- all these women, even the most conventional, most well-behaved, and most pious, had to start saying, ‘No!'”
When I read these words I thought only of our Anchal artisans. Women faced with never ending pressures, stranded in an unbreakable cycle, forced to lead a life they do not want. However with Anchal, they now have the power to say NO, to free their minds and spirits, and to face their future with optimism and hope.
Photo Above: “In 1898, Fanny Bullock Workman launched her assault on the Himalayas. Hanging from the handlebars of her bicycle was a tin teakettle. Her pith helmet barbered the badge of the Touring Club de France. A final accessory, one that never left her side and was scarcely less indispensable than her teakettle, was her husband.” Fanny was an American geographer, cartographer, explorer, and mountaineer, notably in the Himalayas.
Photo Above: “There is a paradox concerning the Western women who openly declared themselves to be followers of Buddhism in the early 1900s: almost all of them were intrepid women of action. Their public quest for release from desire and its concomitant suffering was the fruit of a devouring passion for freedom of thought and fro a distinct individualism, characteristics that ill fit the sublime renunciation of self that their spiritual masters taught them.” Alexandra David-Neel was a Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, and writer. David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels.
These women and the many others featured in the book are an incredible inspiration. Their courage and fearless attitudes remind me that anything can happen as long as you fight for it. Though they have long passed, these trailblazers still inspire women today and I thank them for their audacity. This is a wonderful book and worth a look.
“the best way to rid yourself of an obsessive desire is to fulfill it!” -Ella Maillart
-Maggie (Aspiring Trailblazer)