NONFICTION MONDAY: Women Explorers by Julie Cummins

by Julie Cummins, illustrated by Cheryl Harness
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3713-6
Collective biography
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.


Meet ten inspiring women whose passions for exploration made them push the boundaries

Though most people have heard of explorers like Henry Hudson and Christopher Columbus, few have heard names like Nellie Cashman and Annie Smith Peck. Unfortunately, most of the brave women explorers have never made it into history books because they lived in times when it was taboo for women to go off on their own. Luckily, the daring women in this book didn't let those taboos slow them down as they climbed treacherous mountains, studied Aboriginal cultures, and lived with Pygmy tribes!

With engaging text and bold illustrations, Women Explorers will finally properly introduce these adventurous women to the world.


I found it rather telling that I had never heard of any of these women before reading this book.  As the author points out in the introduction:
Why haven't we heard their names? The answer is: It's a sign of their times. The daring men who ventured into the great unknown are celebrated, but the many intrepid and brave women who faced the same kinds of challenges were saddled with gender barriers, societal disapproval, and second-class status: Females belonged at home!
I appreciate the author taking the time to share the stories of these ten women who found the courage and determination to step out of society's limitations and follow their dreams, despite the many challenges that awaited them. I also was impressed that several of these women, including Ynes Mexia and Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, set out on their explorations in their middle age years.  It reminded me that it is never too late to follow our dreams and passions.  And some of the adventures they had made me shudder, like Lucy Evelyn Cheesman getting stuck in massive spider webs and having to spend hours cutting herself free with a nail file. I am definitely not an explorer myself, but I really admire those who are. Another of my favorite stories was about Nellie Cashman, who went out of her way to help the poor, even after finding gold and striking it rich, she never forgot where she came from.  Other stories include living with cannibals, climbing mountain peaks, collecting thousands of plant samples, interviewing Mao Tse-tung and many other stories. Fascinating.

The only problem I had with the book was one factual error I found (Zaire hasn't existed for more than ten years), but other than that the book is superb and I highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out some more great nonfiction reads at Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Perogies & Gyoza.


  1. So true! Men explorers have been talked about more often. This book is a great find.Thanks for sharing. We will look out for it at the library.

  2. I'll have to hunt this one up! I love Isabella Bird's "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" (1873), especially as she explains she started traveling because of her "delicate" health. So naturally she went places like the Rockies in winter and the top of Long's Peak.

  3. This sounds fascinating--thanks! I have to admit that the style of illustration is not my taste, so I probably wouldn't pick this one up without a nudge.


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