"Surely, of all the wonders of the world, the horizon is the greatest."
I am continually turning to the travel bloggers for tips on my next destination for me and my Qdai dress. I am always in awe of solo-female adventurers who travel to some of the most beautiful and daring destinations.
So I was blown away by Freya, who ventured to destinations which were mostly unexplored by outsiders in the early to mid-1900s. Dame Freya Madeline Stark (Jan. 31, 1893 - May 9, 1993) was a trailblazer, intrepid traveller, and an accomplished writer. Freya literally wrote the books on travel to far-flung destinations, in an age where most people did not travel, let alone a woman on her own.
With no formal education as a child, she had a bohemian upbringing, moving around with her artist parents. Despite this, she was self-taught in German, French and Italian. She entered the University of London and studied at the School of Oriental Studies. She learned two more languages, Persian and Arabic.
In 1927 she left on a cargo ship to Beirut, Lebanon, and caught the travel bug. She continued through Syria, Iraq, and Arabia. As World War II broke out, she moved to Yemen where she worked as an Assistant Information Officer. When she moved back to London, she studied cartography.
Her travels in the Middle East were extensive, she even ventured to parts that were utterly unknown to the west. She ventured into Persia to the Valley of the Assassins, on the back of a mule with bare necessities, the help of a local guide and a limited map. This was a place previously unexplored by Europeans, and the name alone would have turned many away - but she was one brave and determined lady!! She wrote her first book describing this journey and corrected the sketchy British maps she carried. This had made a significant impression on a prestigious association, the Royal Geographical Society. She received a Back Award in 1933, in a time when women adventurers were mostly ignored.
She further travelled to Kurdistan, Persia, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, and India. She really would have racked up some air miles in this modern-day! She wrote 24 travel books and autobiographies. She was awarded the Cross of the British Empire in 1953 and was named a Dame of the British Empire in 1972.
By the way, if you were also blown away by her language skills, well she learned Turkish at the age of 60, and she never stopped travelling. In her 70's, she visited China, Afghanistan, then Iraq, and Persia. At 86 she rode on horse back up Annapurna in the Himalayas. She lived to be 101 years old!!
On my next journey I will begin with a deep dive into one of Freya's books, and I hope to be inspired by the fearless explorer Dame Freya.
At Qdai we make a point of scouting the world for inspirational women. This week takes us to South Africa where Major Mandisa Mfeka has recently become the first black female fighter pilot in the South African Air force.
In watching interviews of her I am struck by both her optimism and the significance of one moment in her life where she realized her dream was actually a possibility. She always admired aviation but did not think “a girl like me” could ever become a pilot.
Once she realized her dream to fly was possible, she put her head down and worked tirelessly to make it to the top, with a smile on her face! I am drawn to her independent positivity and charisma. Her message is that where you come from should not dictate where you are going, and that hard work and vision can take you to any heights, literally. Qdai is similarly determined, to offer practical clothes to women like Mandisa who need their hands free to change the world!
Her success doesn’t stop there; Mandisa has also started an empowerment program called Winged Spanner which teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship to fellow South Africans. “The sky is the baseline” tagline encourages people to re-evaluate their limits and she has been quoted saying “We are 'MULTI-POTENTIALITIES' of the 21st century, unlimited beings. We no longer have to develop and focus only on one skill! Go on and explore them all!”
The first woman to take flight in Africa date back to the beginning of aviation. Audrey Fiander was the first woman to get a pilot’s license in Rhodesia in 1929, and Phyllis Doreen Hooper the first South African woman to get a pilot’s license in 1935! I wonder if they took the skies in a functional dress with pockets?
We Qdai ladies celebrate our own multi-potentialities and look to celebrate yours too. Send us your inspirational stories to share!
When I hear the name Lucy Walker I imagine a character in a Jane Austen novel with perfect hair, a fan and a dashing suitor leaving bunches of wild flowers and calling cards. What I don’t imagine is a woman mountaineer climbing one of the highest peaks in Europe, in a dress, in 1871!
The Matterhorn in the Alps is a mere 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) high, one of the highest summits in the Alps. Lucy Walker was the first woman to climb it ...again, in a dress, at age 35!
Her dress didn't have 6 secret pockets like our Beryl and La Roche dresses do. They weren't light weight or crinkle resistant either, in fact her dress most likely weighed over twenty pounds, the equivalent of carrying a small child all the way up that steep incline!!!
Lucy took up climbing as a result of a doctor’s recommendation to cure her Rheumatism; that in itself is pretty amazing. She is rumored to have lived on champagne and sponge cake while climbing and completed 98 such expeditions in her life time. The Matterhorn was not her first nor her last victorious climb. She claimed the first female ascent of the Eiger in 1864, among others.
Edmund Hillary said “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves!” Her victories were clearly not just physical; she was an acclaimed pioneer leading the way for other female mountaineers and was elected the president of the Ladies Alpine Club in 1915.
I know you all know who Cecilia Payne was! Not! I’d never heard of her ‘till today, did you know that in 1925 she proposed that stars were comprised primarily of Helium and Hydrogen? “So what?” You say.... OK let’s rewind.
She got a scholarship to Cambridge in 1919 when her single mother couldn’t afford her tuition. She completed a degree but wasn’t awarded that degree because she was a woman (they only started dishing out degrees to ladies in 1948!). If that was my story, I may have thrown in the towel in a toddler like rage.
Cecilia was then offered a fellowship at Harvard and moved continents to further her studies. Her PhD thesis in 1925 (enter Helium & Hydrogen) disproved the current theories of the day and she was dissuaded from publishing her theory because it contradicted her male predecessors.
At Harvard she earned her promotion to professor in her field in 1956, by which time she had already published 3 books.
Years later her theory was confirmed and affirmed by fellow astronomers, and her PhD has been called “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”
It was a woman who discovered what our universe is made of!
We admire Cecilia for her brilliance, for being light years ahead of her time, for not giving up when her work was not recognised. Her passionate perseverance brought acknowledgement and success in the end.
We toast another unsung hero for her strength, vision and guts! Cheers dears!
Did you know that the first online business transactions happened in the 1980’s? With the launch of our online shop, we thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to two of the most successful online shops in history, online shopping started officially in the 1990’s!
It must have taken a serious amount of courage to quit a well paying day job for something as foreign and unpredictable as the internet back in 1990 something. Jeff Bezos did exactly that. He was head of a large Wall Street Firm at the time. He borrowed a large sum of cash from his parents, moved city and sold his first book on his own online store, Amazon, in 1995. It took years for him to make a significant profit but look at him now. Imagine owning Amazon! The name was one of hope. He hoped his idea would end up being the biggest thing online, as the Amazon is the biggest river on earth… and perhaps it was his positive vision that saw him through to amazing success over time.
eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in the autumn of 1995 as a hobby; he was a computer programmer and 28 years old at the time. Within the first ten years it expanded from 30 to 15 000 employees. He was a billionaire by age 31 and has spent his life doing philanthropic projects and building up the lives of others since. Perhaps these men were in the right place at the right time, we believe that may have played a part, but more importantly, their eyes were open; searching for the next opportunity, they persevered, looked outward and remained positive.
We can all take a page from these books and cultivate a more positive and tenacious attitude in our endeavors as modern women.
On these pages you can find the latest about Qdai - but this is not all about us.