In honor of Women’s History Month: What is an Adventuress?
An Adventuress is a female character that has appeared in social and cultural history and is described as someone who goes against the social structure. She is seen as a threat to that natural order of things, which is a Victorian view of how women operate in society that goes back hundreds of years. Different countries across the world have a name for this character that appears in both social, religious and cultural constructs.
The Adventuress is a woman who might work, or have independent means, she is usually existing outside the social norm but sometimes she is a member of high society. Life is lived on her own terms and that often means there are great risks for her in a variety of ways. She speaks up; she takes her platform and expands on it. Wallace Simpson, later the Duchess of Windsor, was one woman who was referred to in the press as “the Adventuress” and feared by the government of England for her inevitable fate. Throughout history the dangerous woman has even changed history with her fearlessness.
As I delved deeper into the dictionary definitions, I realized like all dictionary definitions (which were mostly written by men) they are essentially colored by the social and moral lense of the time. Thus an “Adventuress” is defined by the words “speculator” and “unscrupulous” or “questionable” in her quest for empowerment. Many stories of these women populate English literature. VANITY FAIR features the character ‘Becky Sharp‘ and she is a perfect example of the Victorian era views. Her ambition is her undoing, her demise both socially and romantically, destroys her. Rarely is there a happy ending, except in the case of the novel JANE EYRE or JANE AUSTIN who step a little toe outside of convention and end up happy in the end.
The Adventuress shows up in numerous tales across the cultural literary landscape; she might be an explorer going where others feared to go like Amelia Earhart who piloted her own airplane even before women could vote. In the 19th century the Romantic novelist “Georges Sands” and composer Frederic Chopin were the toast of Paris society. Their unconventional relationship forever gave her the title of ADVENTURESS. She even wore men’s clothes before that became fashionable in the 20th century when Marlena Dietrich wore her infamous tuxedo.
Josephine Baker an American woman of color started out as an exotic dancer showcasing her spark and unusual beauty. She literally took Paris by storm in the 1920s. She always fought for equality and was awarded the CROIX de GUERRE for her work during WWII. Sometimes, the rewards for living outside the lines such as FAME or FORTUNE come with a high cost to a personal life but in the end the ADVENTURESS lives on her own terms.
Here are a few that come to mind from the history of Paris art and culture:
- Edith Piaf
- Simone de Beauvoir
- Josephine Baker
- Gertrude Stein (and many more)
Another unique woman who also bore the title with style, The Duchess of Windsor. She was referred to with disdain as “that woman” when she captured the heart of a King who gave up his empire for her. She had stepped outside the norms and for her time ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous women of history and a true fashion icon.
A darker side of the reputation of the Adventuress is usually tied to her desire for gaining more power or independence or sexual freedoms. There is always a shade of ‘ill repute’ attached to the title, perhaps to discourage women stepping outside their formalized roles and promising social destruction, loss of family or most notably, loss of love. An ADVENTURERis (usually) a man who takes chances, goes to the far corners of the world where he gains both academic and professional respect; he might be an explorer, a trail blazer or innovator. This term is sometimes used to describe a woman, but historically this is rare.
The 21st century has seen many improvements in a woman’s place but we all know the fight, continues. The Modern Adventuress is a traveler, a wanderer or groundbreaker. She is a vocal critic of the norms of social and political life and might even be the thorn in the side of convention. She has a cause that she has no fear of sharing. She may be mercenary but she may also be someone who contributes in a variety of ways. She is the person who is giving voice, to the voiceless. She may have a platform that is greater than what a society might allow but she earns it; she finds the appropriate way to utilize it. The platform is part of the message.
21st Century Parisian Women are already on a list that is growing; their unique voices are already affecting cultural and political trends. Join me and hear from women (and men) who are speaking to the new woman of the 21st century who is from all walks of life and a variety of communities. They are taking a step in their own neighborhoods and fields of expertise to bring the world of women a new claim: “A Wish to be Heard”.
The list is much larger than what you see here, but the first responders have sounded the alarm for more equality. To all of the women who are brave enough to go outside the lines, this PODCAST is for you. Let the conversation, begin. I can’t wait to learn along the way with you.
Our starting line-up: