Remembering Ida Laura Pfeiffer’s Journey Around The World As A Solo Woman Traveller

Ida Laura Pfeiffer

Ida Laura Pfeiffer was an Austrian explorer, travel writer and ethnographer. Born in 1797 she became one of the first female travellers. Her first long journey was a trip to Palestine and Egypt when she was five. Some of her best-selling journals were even translated into several different languages. She was also the member of geographical societies of both Berlin and Paris. However, the Royal Geographical Society in London denied membership to her since they forbade the election of women, they opened it for women only in 1913. She died in Vienna on October 27, 1858.

In total, she journeyed an estimated distance of 32,000 kilometres by land and 240,000 kilometres by sea through Southeast Asia, the Americas, Middle East and Africa, which includes two trips around the world from 1846 to 1855.

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Ida Laura Pfeiffer’s History of Travelling

As a child, Ida always dreamt about travelling to foreign places. After her sons settled, she was finally able to accomplish her dream. In one of her journals, she wrote, “When I was but a little child, I had already a strong desire to see the world. Whenever I met a travelling-carriage, I would stop involuntarily, and gaze after it until it had disappeared; I used even to envy the postilion, for I thought he also must have accomplished the whole long journey.”

Ida’s first trip around the world started in the year 1846 and came to an end in the year 1848. On this trip, she sailed from Europe to South America, then on to Tahiti, China, India, Persia, the Russian empire, the Ottoman Empire, Greece and then home to Vienna. She wrote a book about this trip titled A Woman’s Journey Round the World.

For her second trip around the world (1851–1855), she visited North America. She sold 300 guilders (a gold or silver coin formerly used in the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria) worth of specimens to the Royal Museum of Vienna. It is known that she financed all her trips with travel writing and also collected plant and insect specimens which she sold later.

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Her last travelogue was published in Vienna in 1861 in 2 volumes and included a biography written by her son Oscar Pfeiffer.

In 1892, she became the first woman to be admitted to the rows of honoured dead after the Viennese Society for the Further Education of Women transferred Ida Pfeiffer’s remains in a place of honour in the Vienna Central Cemetery. In her honour, a street in Munich was renamed as Ida-Pfeiffer-Straße in the year 2000.

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Khushi Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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