Jeanne Baret

By Nicole Tarnowsky, Amy Weiss

Mar 26 2019

Jeanne Baret was the first woman ever to circumnavigate the globe, but she did it dressed as a man, as women were not allowed on exploration expeditions. For more than two years, from 1766–1769, she traveled on a French naval vessel captained by Louis Antoine de Bougainville. With tightly wrapped linen bandages to flatten her chest, the sailors knew her as "Jean," until they figured out she was actually Jeanne.

Baret and Philibert Commerson were in a relationship when Commerson was hired by the French government to go on this trip. Baret was an excellent botanist in her own right and in order for her to accompany him, the pair conceived a plan where she would pose as his male field assistant. Though the labels on these specimens credit the collections only to Philibert Commerson, the official botanist on this expedition, Jeanne Baret was often the collector. She worked tirelessly, doing much of the phyically demanding field work to collect plant specimens. This includes collecting the expedition’s most notable plant; the vine that would be named in honor of its commander, Bougainvillea.

A Closer Look

Further reading:

Krulwich, R. (2012, January 24). The first woman to go 'round the world did it as a man. Krulwich Wonders [Blog]. Retrieved from (Accessed: 26 Mar 2019).