Follow in the footsteps of inspiring women around the world – Part Two

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Edith Piaf ©Julie Mayfeng/Shutterstock

Edith Piaf ©Julie Mayfeng/Shutterstock

Discover the places that helped shape trailblazing women including Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, LM Montgomery and Jane Austen in a new Lonely Planet book.

A new book from Lonely Planet, called In Her Footsteps, highlights the places that helped shape some of the most extraordinary and inspiring women who have ever walked on this Earth. Here are five of our favourites. Read Part One HERE.

Edith Piaf – 72 rue de Belleville, Paris, France

Iconic French singer Édith Piaf (1915-1963) was brought up unconventionally in the rough Parisian suburb of Belleville. As a child she joined her father touring Europe as a busker and then went out on her own.

At 20 she was discovered, and ‘The Little Sparrow’ began her rise as a chanteuse. Piaf lived a tumultuous life, with multiple dalliances and marriages, plus two car wrecks that left her injured and addicted to alcohol and morphine. She poured her pain and passion into her music, with landmark songs like ‘La Vie en Rose’. Her epic version of ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ remains a staple.

She is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery next to her daughter, who died at the age of 2.

*Édith Piaf is said to have been born on the doorstep at 72 rue de Belleville, in the 20th Arrondissement; a plaque marks the spot.

Janis Joplin – Hippie Hill, San Francisco, USA

“Don’t compromise yourself. It’s all you’ve got.”

Stride across the grass on the eastern side of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and you can almost hear the soulful strains of Janis Joplin. The legendary rock musician strummed her guitar beneath a tree here, in a section of the park dubbed ‘Hippie Hill’ in the ‘60’s. The spot was a magnet for freethinkers, peace activists and long-haired youths looking to tune out.

Today Hippie Hill is as likely to attract couples and picnickers, but impromptu musical performances still salute the spirit of Joplin, who died a legend aged only 27.

*The hill is a 15-minute walk west from 635 Ashbury St, where Joplin lived in the late ‘60’s.

Ella Fitzgerald – Apollo Theatre, Harlem, USA

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”

When the Apollo Theatre first lit its glittering marquee in 1934, it transformed what had previously been an exclusively white burlesque stage into the most vital venue for African American performance in America. Embedded in the heart of Harlem, nearly all the most legendary soul and jazz artists of the 20th century played the Apollo’s magnificent Jazz Age mainstage, among them Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Although the Apollo was initially unusual in its emphasis on African American performers, its audiences were far from exclusively black: many white music-lovers made their way to the Apollo in its early years to hear the best music New York had to offer.

The Apollo is perhaps most renowned for its Amateur Nights, a weekly talent competition that continues to this day. Many musical artists have gotten their start at Amateur Night at the Apollo, including Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, but the most celebrated victor remains the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), who won one of the first competitions when she was only 17 years old. It was a sign of greatness to come. From here the Queens native went on to forge her own unique style, leaving a monumental legacy that spanned six decades.

*The Apollo Theatre is still in operation; stop by the box office to see a show.

LM Montgomery – Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Many a childhood fan of writer LM Montgomery (1874-1942) wished they could have snapped their fingers to be transported to a rambling farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, circa 1870 (with red hair, obviously).

Does any bookish little girl not adore Anne of Green Gables? Her whirring imagination, her stout heart, her knees skinned from adventure. Introduced in 1908 in the eponymous book, she’s been stealing hearts ever since, and drawing pilgrims to pay homage on the Prince Edward Island that was Anne’s unforgettable setting, and where her creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery, was born.

It remains one of the world’s most glorious places to ramble, dreaming of Anne all the while – golden meadows, pebbled shores fringed with sea roses, creamy green farmland dotted with tranquil grazing cows.

*Green Gables, the farm that inspired Montgomery, is in the town of Cavendish, and open to visitors.


Green Gables Cottage © Fiona Harper

Green Gables Cottage © Fiona Harper

Jane Austen – Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, England

For most 18th century women, a good marriage was the ultimate goal in life. Jane Austen (1775- 1817) had other ideas however, turning down a marriage proposal and instead choosing to work and earn her own living. It was a courageous choice; the few female authors of the time were considered lewd and scandalous, the more ambitious publishing under a male pseudonym.

Indeed, Austen titled her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, as ‘By a Lady’. Her character Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice, comes close to explaining her situation: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me”.

At the time it was a gamble, and when Pride and Prejudice came out in 1831, an early critic declared it “much too clever to have been written by a woman”.

Austen lived with her mother and sister in a modest red-brick 17th century house in the village of Chawton from 1809 until her death in 1817. While living here, she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, and revised Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.

Walking through the house, you get a sense of the very prim and proper society of the time. You can see her tiny walnut writing desk, her bookcase now filled with early editions of her novels, her surviving letters, jewellery and clothing. While here, you can dress in Regency clothes, make a lavender bag or wander the garden as Jane almost certainly did. It’s a literary pilgrimage with special significance for her fans, known as ‘Janeites’.

About the author: Fiona Harper is a Queensland-based travel writer – follow Fiona at Travel Boating Lifestyle

*Take bus 64 from Winchester to Chawton Roundabout (45 minutes, hourly), then walk to Chawton village.


Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, England ©Dmitry Naumov/Shutterstock

Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, England ©Dmitry Naumov/Shutterstock

READ Part One – Follow in the footsteps of inspiring women around the world.

This is an edited extract from In Her Footsteps: Where Trailblazing Women Changed the World, published by Lonely Planet.

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