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Genuine Heroines - Louise Arner Boyd

I’m a writer of honest fantasy, genuine heroines and wellness wisdom.

Genuine heroines are women who are tough, yet kind, who can rescue themselves, yet welcome the support of friends. They don’t wear bikini armour and they don’t fight hordes of baddies after three days of no sleep and no food. Inspired by genuine heroines throughout history, I write female characters with depth, complexity and passion

Therefore, I’m continuing this series of blog posts about historical female characters who I have found inspirational. There are explorers, adventurers, healers, rights activists and world changers. These are real world characters with exceptional stories that I’m excited to share with you.

This month it's Louise Arner Boyd - Arctic explorer

Louise was born in California in 1887. Her father was the owner of a gold mine, so Louise and her two older brothers had a privileged upbringing. Every summer, they would spend time at the family ranch, horse riding, fishing, camping and exploring. They also travelled extensively, including trips to Europe. Sadly, Louise's two brothers both died of heart disease within a few months of each other when Louise was in her teens.

After her parent’s deaths in 1919 and 1920, Louise used her inheritance to go travelling. In 1924, she journeyed to Norway and had her first experience of the polar ice pack. Enthralled, she charted a vessel to go on a hunting and filming trip in the Arctic which gained her notoriety around the world.

In 1928, she was planning another trip to the Arctic when she heard that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team had disappeared following their attempts to find Italian explorer Umberto Nobile. Louise offered her services to the Norwegian government to help the search but despite travelling over sixteen thousand kilometres across the Arctic ocean, she found no sign of Roald Amundsen, however Umberto Nobile was rescued. Although she did not find Roald Amundsen, for her efforts, the Norwegian government awarded Louise the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav, the first American woman to be so honoured.

In the 1930’s, Louise explored the north and east coasts of Greenland, collecting botanical samples and taking photographs. The findings from the scientific expeditions she led in 1933 and 1935 were published by the American Geographical Society.

In 1934, she spent three months travelling across the Polish countryside by car, rail, boat and on foot, recording and photographing the local customs and culture.

During World War II, her knowledge of the Arctic from her six previous expeditions put her in a position to lead a new expedition for the Department of Commerce’s National Bureau of Standards along the west coast of Greenland. The main objective was to monitor radio wave transmissions, as well as studying the ionosphere, geomagnetism and aurorae. She also worked on secret assignments for the Department of the Army and was awarded a Department of Army Certificate of Appreciation.

In 1955, Louise charted a plane and flew over the North Pole, the first woman to have done so. Her crew included Norwegian aviation pioneer Thor Solberg.

Louise was the second woman awarded the Cullum Medal of the American Geographical Society and in 1960 was the first woman to be elected to their board. She was made an honorary member of the California Academy of Science and received an honorary law degree from the University of California.

Louise died in 1972, aged eighty four. The data she collected is now helping scientists monitor climate change, as well as leaving a lasting contribution in the fields of geology, geomorphology, oceanography and botany.

Louise was an intrepid explorer, not letting misogyny stop her from following her passion. She sought out experts to help her learn botany, photography and the other skills she required for her expeditions. She used her wealth to finance scientific explorations, contributing significant information which is still valued today. Louise is an inspiration for strong female characters who follow their passions and bravely push boundaries.

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