Jeanne Baret


Artwork by Baé

October's #MuseoftheMonth celebrates Jeanne Baret, the first woman in history to circumnavigate the world. 

In 1766, Baret was invited to join naturalist Philibert Commerson on French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville's Étoile. However, women were strictly prohibited from sailing abroad at the time. Baret disguised herself as a male named ‘Jean.’ She even wrapped bandages around her chest and dressed in loose-fitting clothes to hide her gender. 


Joseph Ducreux: Louis-Antoine, comte de Bougainville (1729-1811), Commerson Philibert 1727-1773

Baret collected more than 6000 plant specimens but was never properly credited at the time. She was later given the recognition she deserved. In 2012, the newly discovered South American species Solanum baretiae, was named in her honor.

The Prince of Nassau-Siegen, a nobleman who was also part of Bougainville’s expedition, mentionioned the stress and dangers she had to face during the expedition. He wrote, “I want to give her all the credit for her bravery.” No barriers could stop Baret from pursuing her dreams, and her fearlessness lives on.


The flowering arm of a new species of Solanum, named for botanical explorer Jeanne Baret, 1740-1807
Sketch of Bougainville’s expedition

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