For the past year I have been writing the manuscript for an intriguing new book. I hope to soon find a publisher or agent interested in it.
Audacious Women: The Compelling Stories of Six Travel Trailblazers, tells the stories of six incredibly bold women who traveled the world on their own and shook up the status quo against all odds. From the late 19th to the mid-10th centuries, each had a unique story that enriches our narrative as a nation on the move. Coming from differing circumstances, they shared an adventurous spirit that broke the confines of what was then considered a “man’s world.” Their personalities were intriguing and complicated; certain words provide apt descriptions–fervent, impassioned, formidable. Their motivations, described by one writer, were “scared to death of being unconventional but seething underneath.”
Written largely in their own words, the narrative explores what emboldened them for the lifestyle they chose, the challenges they took on, and the discrimination they faced. Their stories also illustrate how this new-found ability to travel on their own paralleled the evolution of the women’s movement during this period.
The six chapters are bookended with two distinctive individuals–Nellie Bly, who in 1889 traveled around the globe in 72 days taking only one dress and one coat, and Sally Ride, who gave up a career as a tennis professional to circumnavigate the globe in only ninety minutes. Other stories include Annie (Londonderry) Kopchovsky, a housewife who in 1894 decided to trek around the world by bicycle, ostensibly to capture a $10,000 prize but more significantly to gain celebrity. Next is Alice Ramsey, an early race-car driver who in 1909 decided to be driver and mechanic on a hazardous coast-to-coast trek from New York to San Francisco in a Maxwell automobile. As the age of flight began, Harriet Quimby was the first female licensed pilot and became an international celebrity for her achievements, earning an unbelievable $100,000 to fly in the Boston Air Show in 1912. In the 1920s, Amelia Earhart impassioned the day she saw her first aircraft in flight and flew throughout the world until the day of her tragic disappearance.
The book gives a unique perspective in that each of the six women is paired with an individual whose story provides a striking contrast. This counterpoint brings attention to relevant issues–the changing role of women during this pivotal period, travel as a means for women to become more independent, the fleeting nature of celebrity, and the sometimes tragic endings when trying to push the envelope too far.
How did I become interested in writing about this topic? For twenty years I taught a university course in Transportation History and Planning. During this time I authored a book, Crossing the Continent: Pioneers of Transcontinental Travel, that included biographies of individuals significant in the historical development of transcontinental transportation, from George Washington to William Boeing. After reviewing the manuscript Ilene candidly asked, “Why are there no women in your book?” Her comment was eye-opening and spurred me to look more deeply at my historical resources. This resulted in the marvelous stories of the six “audacious women” described in the following chapters. During their intriguing and colorful lives, they each took on great challenges and overcame incredible obstacles; it became obvious they deserved a book of their own.