These 20 women were trailblazing explorers—why did history forget them?

They crossed continents on horseback, mapped mountains, and broke records for deep-sea diving. For Women’s History Month, meet the female explorers behind National Geographic.

In the 1930s the boldest attempt at crewed deep-sea exploration was conducted in a steel contraption called the bathysphere. This series of record-breaking expeditions to study marine life was staffed by Jocelyn Crane Griffin‚ Else Bostelmann, and Gloria Hollister Anable (shown here).
Photograph by John Tee-Van

Be sure you’re the first woman somewhere,” an editor advised budding photographer Dickey Chapelle as World War II escalated. Chapelle took the advice and sneaked ashore with a Marine unit during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, flouting a ban on female journalists in combat zones. She temporarily lost her military press accreditation but went on to earn a reputation as a fearless war correspondent.

Since National Geographic’s founding in 1888, women have churned out achievements in science and exploration, often with only fleeting recognition. They mapped the ocean floor, conquered the highest peaks, unearthed ancient civilizations, set deep-sea diving records, and flew around the world. They talked their way onto wars’ front lines and traveled across continents.

“There is no reason why a woman cannot go wherever a man goes, and further,” explorer Harriet Chalmers Adams said in 1920. “If a woman be fond of travel, if she has love of the strange, the mysterious, and the lost, there is nothing that will keep her at home.”

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