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Charmian London (1871-1955)

Charmian Kittredge was Jack London’s second wife. She was fearless and game for any adventure and Jack found her a comrade and encouraged her own writing which she started before she met him. They first visited and fell in love with Hawaii with the Snark during their trip of 1907-09. Years later and following Jack’s failing health, Charmian persuaded him to spend long periods in Hawaii during 1915 and 1916, the last two years of his life. In this book Charmian wrote about their life and experiences in Hawaii including a week stay in the the leper colony of Molokai, the subject of some of Jack London’s best stories. In Hawaii, on July 16,1915 a year before his death, Jack London wrote a dedication to Charmian on a copy of “The Scarlet Plague”: “And here, in blessed Hawaii eight years after our voyage here in our own speck boat, we find ourselves, not merely again, but more bound to eah other than then or ever.” 

She wrote “Jack London and Hawaii” about their adventures in Hawaii.

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May French Sheldon (1847-1936)

In the last half of the nineteenth century, Africa was still the ‘dark continent,’ with large areas of its territory unmapped. Tribes in many regions had not been subdued, and from their initial contacts with Arab slavers and Western explorers, they were often hostile to foreigners. Diseases against which outsiders had no immunities had been named but not cured. Roads and even trails were almost nonexistent. But these very obstacles made Africa an irresistible challenge to adventurers. Most, of course, were men, but one of the more remarkable, unconventional, and brave of these explorers was a middle-aged American woman by the name of May French Sheldon, who in 1891 planned and led an expedition to East Africa. For her it was not enough just to follow the trail of the male explorers. Her aim was to prove that women could do whatever men could do. May contributed learned papers on little-known topics such as the navigation of Lake Chala, and she made some of the first ethnographic studies of African women and children. It is the latter work which today stands out as a major accomplishment. Along with her contemporary Mary Kingsley, Sheldon was among the first white people to describe Africans and African culture sympathetically.

The book she wrote about her amazing expedition is “Sultan to Sultan”

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Beatrice Grimshaw (1870-1953)

Beatrice Grimshaw was born in Ireland. She was an adventurer at heart since childhood and an independent soul who longed to travel to far away places. Until 1903 she had been a freelance journalist, a tour organiser and an emigration promoter but her dream was to go to the South Pacific islands. Embarking from San Francisco in 1904, she sailed first to Tahiti, followed by a four month voyage through the South Pacific and an additional two months on the island of Niue. During this trip, she visited Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Rarotonga and some of the Cook islands. She returned to London and published “In the Strange South Seas” in 1907. In the book, Grimshaw not only recounts her adventures but she also describes the customs and lifestyles of the native populations as well as giving an exhaustive picture of the region’s fauna and wildlife. The book also contain accounts of cannibalism, head-hunting, poisoning and tribal magic.

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Jean Batten (1909-1982)

Jean Batten was born in Rotorua, New Zealand and developped a love for aviation from an early age. Her father did not approve of her love of flying and she and her mother moved to London in order to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot. Jean received her license at the London Aeroplane Club at Stag Lane and began planning for a flight from England to Australia to surpass the Amy Johnson’s record. After two failed attempts, she succeeded in 1934, flying a Gipsy Moth and became a great hero in Australia, New Zealand and England. In 1935 she broke James Mollison’s records for England to Brazil and Dakar to Natal and became the first woman to fly solo across the South Atlantic. She also shared a Harmon Trophy with Amelia Earhart in 1935. In 1937 she set another record for an Australia to England flight both ways. During World War II Jean Batten gave up flying and eventually became a recluse, living with her mother in Majorca, Spain and appearing in public only for a few events. She died in obscurity in Majorca in 1982. The international terminal at Auckland Airport is named in her honor.

She wrote her own biography “Jean Batten: My Life – New Zealand’s Greatest woman pilot”

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Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)

Amelia Earhart was twice the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air: initially in 1928 as a passenger just a year after Lindbergh’s pioneering flight and then in 1932 flying solo. Like her contemporaries Amy Johnson and Beryl Markham she was featured in all the fashionable magazines of the day as a symbol of the new independent woman. The list of records Amelia established reads like a catalogue of aviation history and includes the first flights from Hawaii to California and from California to Mexico. In 1937 she attempted with a copilot, Frederick J. Noonan, to fly around the world, but her plane was lost on the flight between New Guinea and Howland Island. Despite extensive searches neither wreckage nor bodies were ever found. Many theories exist but there is no proof of her fate. Amelia will always be remembered for her courage, vision and groundbreaking achievements both in aviation and for women.

She wrote her autobiography “Last Flight – Amelia earhart’s flying adventures” 

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Amy Johnson (1903-1941)

Amy Johnson bacame world famous as the first woman to fly solo in a historical journey from England to Australia in 1930. She also set records in other flights, including a 1931 flight from England to Japan, a 1932 flight from England to Cape Town and another flight to Cape Town in 1935. She was also the first British trained woman ground engineer, the only woman in the world to do so at that time. Amy Johnson married Scottish aviator Jim Mollison in 1932 with whom she flew non-stop from South Wales to the United States in 1933. They also set a record together flying non-stop to India in 1934. The couple divorced in 1938. During WWII Amy joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. Her flying duties consisted of ferrying aircraft from factory airstrips to RAF bases. It was on one of these flights that she crashed into the Thames estuary and was drowned in 1941. Her body was never recovered and her legend was thus born.

She wrote her memoirs in the book “Sky roads of the world”

Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun  (1755-1842)

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Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun was an exceptional painter, lived through the French revolution and traveled extensively throughout Europe for a few years before settling back in France to write her memoirs. At the age of 15, Elisabeth was earning enough money from her portrait painting to support herself, her widowed mother and her younger brother. She became Marie Antoinette’s favorite painter; European aristocrats, actors and writers were also her patrons; and she was elected a member of the art academies in 10 cities.  Trained by her father, the portraitist Louis Vigée, she joined Paris’ Academy of Saint Luke at 19 years of age.  Two years later she married Pierre Lebrun, an art dealer who helped her gain valuable access to the art world.  Her talent soon came to the attention of the French queen, who in 1783 appointed her a member of Paris’ prestigious Academie Royale.  As one of only four female academics, Vigée-Lebrun enjoyed a high artistic, social and political profile.  But once the French Revolution came in 1789, she was forced to flee the country with her nine year old daughter. After living and painting in several european countries, she returned to France and wrote her memoirs ” Memoirs of a Painter” when she was 80 years old. She produced more than 600 paintings, many of them now in the major museums of the world.