I’ve always felt that it was important to learn about women who accomplished a lot of “firsts” throughout history.
For instance, do you know who the first woman to sail around the world was?
Her name was Jeanne Baret, and not only was she the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, but on her journey, she discovered new plants.
Jeanee was born in 1740 in France. While little is known about her childhood and upbringing, she grew up in a rural area, and her family was quite poor. She didn’t receive a formal education but, through experience, learned a lot about botany and plants.
As she got older, Jeanne was hired as a housekeeper for Philibert Commerson. Philibert studied medicine and botany, and over the years, they grew closer and shared a personal relationship. When Philibert’s wife died in 1762, he and Jeanne grew even closer and moved in together.
In 1765, Philibert was invited to join French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s worldwide expedition that took place from 1766 to 1769. Jeanne was the perfect person to serve as Philibert’s assistant; however, in those days, women were not allowed to set foot on French Navy ships.
However, they didn’t give up and decided to disguise Jeanne as a man so she could board the ship and eventually be assigned the role of Philibert’s assistant. This made her the first woman to ever sail around the world.
During the expedition around the world, Jeanne took over much of Philibert’s work as he fell ill. One of the most notable plants she is believed to have discovered is the beautiful Bougainvillea, which is named after Louis Antoine de Bougainville and his expedition.
While finding plants with Philibert in Madagascar, they came across a plant they originally named after Jeanne, called the genus Baretia. However, the plant has since been reclassified as the Turraea.