"That period of my life, spent in the middle of the steppes far from any cities, appears to me now in such a calm, pleasant and serene light, that the slightest incident which reminds me of it moves me deeply." - Adèle Hommaire de Hell In the 19th century, people roamed the world, explored and conquered; they discovered places near and far; they created learned societies and museums; they drew up inventories and maps and measured; they braved the unknown so well that between making war, colonising, evangelising, studying, exploring, trading, emigrating and sightseeing, the reasons were many to start out on a journey. If there were men who travelled far, there were also women, even at the beginning of the century when travel was terribly perilous and uncomfortable. In 1812, for example, the actress Louise Fusil, caught in the Great Fire of Moscow, had no choice but to retreat to the Berezina with Napoleon’s armies. In 1817, Rose de Freycinet, a clandestine passenger on a frigate of the French Royal Navy, made a three-year voyage around the world. Charlotte-Adélaïde Dard survived the wreck of La Méduse in 1816. In 1840, Léonie d’Aunet returned crowned with the glory of her adventure in the glacial Spitsbergen, while Louise Bachelet traversed war-torn Paraguay to join a small French society organised as a phalanstery in Brazil. In 1848, the cellist Lise Cristiani did a twenty-thousand-kilometre tour of Siberia. The legacy of the Enlightenment had pervaded a society that believed in knowledge through observation just as it believed in the superiority of its values. Bringing back knowledge was not the privilege of explorers or scholars; the women travellers who set off to know the world and also caught up in the general process of expanding knowledge, felt themselves on an educational mission and on their return published the narratives of their adventures. Going abroad and writing: a double emancipation in a society that wanted to limit women’s territory to the domestic sphere. Louise Bourbonnaud, whose solo overland journey of “one hundred and forty-five thousand leagues” gave her the right to flout all constraints, was the representative of their pride. “How impressionable is woman’s nature! The slightest thing upsets her, frightens her, makes her lose her head! How incomplete is her organisation in sangfroid, presence of mind, and composure in the face of the hardships that life is filled with and which confront her at every step. What would she do without man? How could she get along, poor thing? Well, I, a woman, wanted to show that those ideas enumerated above about woman were getting very stale and out-of-date. Still young, in possession of a rather decent fortune, and a widow - that is to say, mistress of my actions - I set out upon my journey around the world.” Performing artists, wives of men called off to distant places, exiles, believers in God, missionaries, activists, novelists, reporters, scientists, tourists, aventurers, or invalids needing favorable climates, women untook their travels for diverse reasons which make each narrative singular and the whole unique. A collection which presents the triple interest of information on the world of the time, from the Kamchatka to Tahiti; on the travellers as women of a period and a country; and on their narratives as a variety of a very productive literary genre in the 19th century. That fascination with travel narratives and of shipwrecked exploration expeditions would naturally further the circulation of the accounts these women wrote in books and articles. Side by side with periodicals that aimed for the general and encyclopedic culture of the reader, such as the Revue des Deux Mondes, Le Musée des Familles or Le Magasin Pittoresque, the travel publication par excellence was Le Tour du Monde, founded by Édouard Charton, a Saint-Simonian and the future General Secretary for Public Instruction. Charton, who believed in the image as much for its aesthetic quality as for its power to inform, recruited the best engravers of the time, Gustave Doré or Riou, such that the extraordinary iconogaphy of his magazine made it highly appreciated from the beginning and still today a collector’s item. Out of the five hundred authors published, twenty-five were women. It wasn’t many, but it was a real recognition by comparison with the publications that ignored them and still do today. These articles from Le Tour du Monde, the entries in the Dictionnaire illustré des explorateurs et grands voyageurs français du XIXe siècle, and library holdings - especially those of the Bibliothèque Nationale and the Marguerite Durand Library in Paris, which specialises in women’s history - reveal over seventy French or French-speaking women who made long-distance journeys between 1800 and 1900. The word “great” will here be conventionally reserved for the French women travellers who visited Africa, Asia, the Americas, the South Sea Islands or Russia, excluding the rest of Europe. Was Nicolas Bouvier correct in thinking that “It is often more profitable to read travellers who write than writers who travel”? One may judge from this book in which the women writers who travelled - George Sand or Germaine de Staël - are overshadowed by the women travellers who wrote about far-off lands.