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Jeanne Baret
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Jeanne Baret – Explorer, Adventurer, and Master of Disguise

Jeanne Baret – Explorer, Adventurer, and Master of Disguise

Jeanne Baret was an incredibly inspiring woman; she endured a great deal of hardship in her lifetime and yet came out the other side even stronger.

Jeanne transcended a remarkable accomplishment, going against gender norms during a period when women were not expected to do daring endeavours. She was and remains an inspirational figure who will forever be remembered in history as someone who took action when no one else dared – now that’s something worth celebrating!

Jeanne Baret And Her Incredible Life

Jeanne Baret was born in July 1740 and became the first woman to travel across the globe! Moving by sea, Jeanne had to disguise herself as a man so that she could travel without being held back because of her gender.

During this time, traveling long distances by water was standard procedure since there was no air travel, so there was a large culture of sailing and marine time life.

Unfortunately, in this society, there was widespread superstition about girls and their presence in boats. In fact, many sailors and mariners believed that a girl on a boat creates bad luck, so if something went wrong (storms, mechanical problems, or disease), it would get blamed on the girl’s presence on the boat. But Jeanne Baret did not let that stop her, and she went on to become the very first woman, it is believed, to travel across the entire globe. This story is about her adventure.

Early Years and Rise

Jeanne was born in a village in rural France in 1740. She left her small rural village in 1765 to work as a housekeeper in the home of Philibert Commerson. He was a botanist—he studied and collected plants to see how they work and what they can be used for—and although he hired Jeanne as a housekeeper, he soon noticed her talent in botany.

Philibert Commerson did not hesitate to rely on her talents for his own work, and since he was making a name for himself as a scientist, he decided that an assistant would be just the thing to hurry his career along and establish him as a successful plant scientist. While Jeanne ended up being an excellent assistant, she received no credit or recognition. What she did receive was an opportunity to work at something she was good at and travel to places where she could learn and grow and even become the first woman to circumnavigate (move all the way around the globe).

An Expedition Around the World

Commerson enlisted to join an expedition worldwide with a famous navigator named Louis-Antoine de Bougainville and brought his assistant on board for the project. According to Danielle Clode, “during that voyage, Jeanne helped Commerson amass the largest individual natural history collection known at the time.

Thousands of the plant specimens can still be found in the herbarium of the Paris natural history museum, although few bear Jeanne’s name.” Jeanne’s luck would soon run out as her gender became known to local people on the Island of Tahiti. Once she was revealed as a girl, the expedition crew were in an uproar, and she and Commerson denied knowing her true identity. But the captain allowed her to stay and continue her work until they reached Mauritius, a French territory at the time.

Jeanne Baret and Commerson were forced to disembark in Mauritius, but time was on their side: they had taken the samples they needed and moved around the entire planet by this time.

Jeanne Baret’s adventure shows us what can happen when we identify a small window of opportunity surrounded by difficulties. She took one step and multiplied what was available to girls at the time, jumping as high as breaking a record for girls up until that point.

Learn about more inspiring girls on our Smart Girls page, or follow our Instagram page for more stories like this!

 

Hannah

Hannah

Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights

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