because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ella Maillart

When she died in 1997 at the age of 94, Ella Maillart's obituary in the New York Times said she'd been, among other things, an Olympic sailor, a competitive skier, a pioneer field hockey player, and a movie stuntwoman. But she was primarily known for traveling around taking photographs and writing about places few outsiders ever see and most would not be allowed to visit. Her motto was, "Nobody can go? Then I shall go." And she proved it over and over for decades.

At one point or another, she walked across the Caucasus Mountains, traveled through Russian Turkestan, spent time in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation, and crossed China under great hardship on train, horse, foot and camel back. Her photos and books invite us to come along on her journeys, which she saw as attempts to find and better understand herself. And still she calls to in-your-face women everywhere: "You can feel as brave as Columbus starting for the unknown the first time you enter a Chinese lane full of boys laughing at you, or when you risk climbing down in a Tibetan pub for a meal of rotten meat." Sounds exciting, huh? C'mon. Let's go.

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