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International Pilgrimages for History’s Greatest Heroines

by Kayla Kurin

From artists to scientists to activists to explorers, plan a trip to get to know one (or two or three) of these world-changing heroines in honor of Women’s History Month.

Frida Kahlo House

Mexico City, Mexico

“I am my own muse, the subject I know best.” – Frida Khalo 

One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo’s personal life is no less intriguing than her professional one. 

Struggling with lifelong pain and disability due to having polio as a child and a bus accident in her teens, Frida Kahlo created some of the most beautiful paintings from her home in Mexico City. 

La Casa Azul (The Blue House), located in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighborhood, is the perfect pilgrimage for art lovers who also appreciate the feminist and anti-colonial stances Frida took in her paintings and throughout her life. From representing life with a disability to abortion to celebrating body hair, Frida was never one to back down from a difficult or taboo topic. 

A visit to La Casa Azul lets you experience Frida’s art while also getting insight into her daily life. Buy your tickets in advance because the line to get into this monumental artist’s home wraps around several sun-blistered blocks.

The Famous Five Statue

Ottawa, Canada

“The purpose of a woman’s life is … that she may make the best possible contribution to the generation in which she is living.” – Louise McKinney 

Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby were five Canadian women who fought for women’s equality in Canada. 

Each established activists in their own right, the five came together to fight and win the “persons case,” getting a ruling that the word “persons” in the Canadian constitution included women. This made it possible for women to hold positions in the senate and other seats in parliament.

A visit to Parliament Hill, colloquially known as “The Hill,” in Ottawa will give wandering feminists the chance to see a bronze sculpture of the five women planning their case. 

Brontë Parsonage Museum

Yorkshire, England

“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy, and free.” – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

While there aren’t many people who’d view Victorian England as a time when feminist theory flourished, the Brontë sisters expressed the frustrations and limitations women faced during this time in their classic novels.

The sisters originally wrote under male pen names, and many of the depressing themes of their novels offended readers when they first came out. When it was revealed they were women, many in the public didn’t believe a woman could write such heavy work.

However, the struggle for independence, safety and love are themes both women in Victorian and modern times can relate to. Their eerie gothic settings only point to the bleak landscape women had to face during their lifetimes. 

Their home in Haworth has been turned into a museum where fans of literature can see how the literary trio lived, where they engaged in heated discussions about their work and the desks they sat at to write. 

Marie Curie Museum

Warsaw, Poland

“We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.” – Marie Curie

This groundbreaking scientist was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (and won it twice). She studied for a Doctorate of Science in 1903, rare for a woman in that time, and became a professor of general physics. 

In her research, she discovered how to separate radium from its dangerous properties and use it in a therapeutic setting.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Marie Curie’s childhood home has been converted into a museum run by the Polish Chemical Society. The museum displays scientific equipment she used and photographs and items from her daily life. 

Hypatia’s Monument

Cairo, Egypt

“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than to not think at all.” – Hypatia 

Another one for science lovers! Hypatia is one of the earliest female scientists in recorded history. 

Hypatia grew up in the Roman Empire at the Museum of Alexandria, which included the famous Library of Alexandria and functioned much like a modern-day university.  She studied math, astronomy and philosophy and eventually came to teach many influential Roman-Egyptians at the Museum. 

Hypatia believed in the Greco-Roman Gods (who were heavily influenced by many Egyptian gods) but she still taught Roman-Christian math and science. Unfortunately, some of the Romans didn’t like the fact that a woman was teaching men and she was brutally murdered by a mob of Romans.

Her contributions to math and science live on to this day, and she was one of the first female academics in the STEM field.

Travelers interested in Hypatia can visit the Library of Alexandria or the new monument to Hypatia just outside of Cairo. 

Miharu Cherry Trees

Fukushima, Japan

“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is most important.” – Junko Tabei

Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mt. Everest. But that wasn’t enough for her, she’s climbed the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents and became an author and nature activist. She headed an environmental protection association, worked as a hiking guide and continued climbing mountains until her death at the age of 77.

Junko was born in a small town called Miharu, which is the site of one of the oldest and most unique cherry blossom trees in Japan. Visitors can see how Junko was inspired to explore and care for the outdoors while taking in the “waterfall” cherry tree. 

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