Ida Laura Pfeiffer (October 1797, Vienna – October 1858), was an Austrian traveler and travel book author. She was one of the first female explorers, whose popular books were translated into seven languages. She was a member of geographical societies of both Berlin and Paris, but not of Royal Geographical Society in London due to her sex.
Making record-setting, ground-breaking voyages and treks between 1842 and 1858, she collected and carefully documented thousands of plant, insect, marine, and mineral specimens, which currently reside in the Natural History Museums of Berlin and Vienna. Her 1856 collection of Malagasy (Madagascar) plants and insects was one of the first substantial looks at how unique the island was on a floral and entomological level, and many of her specimens were brand new species, even though she didn’t know it at the time.
On top of her biological specimens, Mrs. Pfieffer also collected an invaluable account of many of the world’s cultures, from the unique perspective of a female travelling solo, in a time when that was nearly unheard of for proper women. Despite her modesty, the fact that she was a mother of grown sons and a widower, her travels and travelogues were initially questioned and looked down upon as “lesser.” By the end of her life, though, she was highly respected and sought after by many notable exploration and geographical societies. Because of her gender, she had gained access to many places and cultures that shunned and attacked men, and gave a new perspective to many cultures that had been previously documented only by male explorers.
Download some of her work here for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/3807