Discover the places that helped shape trailblazing women including Jane Goodall, Eva Peron and Jane Austen amongst others in a new Lonely Planet book.
In Her Footsteps is not only a celebration of incredible women, but a travel guide to the places where they studied, lived, worked, reigned and explored. In Part One below we’ll show you where to find the secret history sites around the world related to Jane Goodall, Helen Keller, Eva Peron, Mother Theresa and Anne Frank. In Part Two we explore more historic sites related to Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, LM Montgomery and Jane Austen . Read Part Two HERE.
Jane Goodall – Gombe Stream National Park, Gombe, Tanzania
“Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.”
Few people have impacted how we define humanity as much as Jane Goodall. In 1958 Dr Louis Leakey chose her to lead chimpanzee research at Gombe National Park, Tanzania, before she even had a university degree; this was unprecedented and yet, decades later, it’s obvious that the animal-loving young woman from London (she was only 26 when research began in 1960) was the best choice for the job. Gombe is a small but incredibly biodiverse region of steep valleys, grassland and jungle that’s accessible only by boat. Rather than set herself physically and emotionally at a distance from the chimps (the standard for animal research), Goodall slowly became accepted by the animals and developed close bonds with them that led to astounding observations. What she saw included tool-making, hunting for meat and even war in the primates’ society. She found so many similarities between chimps and humans that it became necessary for the scientific community to reevaluate what distinguishes humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.
But while her decades of groundbreaking chimpanzee research are best known, Goodall is as legendary for her conservation work. She saw early on that her beloved chimps were threatened by habitat destruction and illegal trafficking, leading her to found the Jane Goodall Institute to encourage individual action to help save the natural world. She’s also worked with various animal rights groups, and her organisation Roots & Shoots brings young people together to work on environmental and conservation issues. Even in her 80s, she’s on the road ~300 days per year raising awareness and money for her causes.
*Visitors to Gombe can see Jane’s old chimp-feeding station, the viewpoint on Jane’s Peak and Kakombe Waterfall.
Helen Keller – Ivy Green, Tuscumbia, USA
If you learned about Helen Keller (1880-1968) in primary school, you probably remember the story of the well pump. Keller, who’d become blind and deaf after an illness in childhood, was sitting by the well pump with her new teacher, Anne Sullivan. Sullivan had been trying to teach Keller finger-spelling, tracing letters on her palm. But 6-year-old Keller wasn’t getting the connection between the sensations on her hand and what they were meant to represent. That day, Sullivan turned on the pump and ran Keller’s hand under the water while spelling W-A-T-E-R in her other palm.
“I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand”, Keller would write in her autobiography.
Keller would go on to graduate from Radcliffe College and travel the world as a celebrated speaker and disability rights advocate. A dedicated socialist, she would fight for progressive causes from pacifism to birth control to women’s rights, helping to found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. Sullivan would be her lifelong companion. See the well-pump that opened up Keller’s world at Ivy Green, her white clapboard childhood home. In late June, the house is the busy site of the Helen Keller Festival. In summer, The Miracle Worker, the play depicting her life with Sullivan, is performed on the Ivy Green grounds.
*Ivy Green is in Tuscumbia, Alabama, about midway between Birmingham and Nashville.
Eva Perón – Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina
“I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.”
Raised in poverty but ascending to become Argentina’s first lady, a campaigner against all social injustices and more popular than the president himself, Eva Perón (1919-1952), better known as Evita, remains to this day an iconic champion of the common people, throughout Argentina and far beyond.
She married Juan Perón just prior to him becoming president of Argentina in 1946, but his success in the polls was often because of none other than his wife. Evita became increasingly influential within Perón’s party. Young, beautiful and from a humble background, she was a big hit with the working class.
She founded the Eva Perón Foundation, Argentina’s largest charitable organisation, which funded everything from shoes to new schools and homes for the needy. She campaigned for women’s suffrage and labour rights. Eventually she determined she would run for Vice-President, a position she would likely have attained, to judge from her standing amongst the masses. Only deteriorating health and opposition from the political elite stopped Evita’s ascendancy, as she died tragically of an aggressive cervical cancer in 1952.
Of the many locales associated with Evita, the salmon-pink Casa Rosada, ornate residence of Argentina’s president, is most iconic. Eva often addressed her thousands of supporters from the balcony, and made her last public speech – appropriately delivered on Loyalty Day, commemorating the huge demonstration she organised for Juan Perón’s 1945 release from prison – in 1951.
*Casa Rosada abuts Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo, where crowds famously thronged to hear Evita speak.
Mother Teresa – Motherhouse, Kolkata, India
For many people, Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was the living image of human compassion and sacrifice. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in then-Ottoman Üsküp (now Skopje in Macedonia), she joined the Irish Order of Loreto nuns and worked for more than a decade teaching in Kolkata.
Horrified by the city’s spiralling poverty, she established a new order, the Missionaries of Charity, and founded refuges for the destitute and dying. The first of these opened in 1952. Although the order swiftly expanded into an international charity, Mother Teresa herself continued to live in absolute simplicity. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, beatified by the Vatican in 2003, and eventually made a saint in 2016.
However, there are some who detract and question the social worker’s call of duty. Feminist author Germaine Greer has accused Mother Teresa of religious imperialism, while journalist Christopher Hitchens’ book, The Missionary Position, decried donations from dictators and corrupt tycoons. Many have also questioned the order’s minimal medical background as well as Teresa’s staunch views against contraception. And as recently as 2018, a Missionaries of Charity home in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand was embroiled in a scandal involving selling babies for adoption.
Regardless, her defenders continue to look up to Mother Teresa for her lifelong mission to offer care and dignity to the dying and the destitute, inspiring others to follow in her path. A regular flow of pilgrims visits the Missionaries of Charity’s ‘Motherhouse’ to pay homage at Mother (and now Saint) Teresa’s large, sober tomb.
*From Sudder St, walk for about 15 minutes along Alimuddin St, then two minutes south. It’s in the second alley to the right.
Anne Frank – Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Though Anne Frank only found fame after her tragic death, her diary is a triumph of writing for one so young (she began writing it aged 13 in 1942). What she recorded whilst lying low in the secret annex shows maturity of style beyond her years and a passion for a career ‘besides having a husband and children’.
The power of the diary is amplified by the fact that Frank shared her achterhuis (secret annex) hideout not only with her mother, father and sister, but also four others in incredibly cramped conditions, all discovered by German authorities in 1944 and consigned to concentration camps.
Frank died there, after enduring terrible hardships, just months before WWII ended. This information-packed museum solemnly recreates the life of the fugitives during their time in the secret annex through diary extracts and photographs. Easily the most harrowing thing is the fact that this was the very house they hid within.
*Trams 13/17 stop at Westermarkt; from here it is a short walk to the Anne Frank House.
This is an edited extract from In Her Footsteps: Where Trailblazing Women Changed the World, published by Lonely Planet.