Exploring my vast collection of postcards, I found a postcard from the collection of the
Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum in Chanute, Kansas. The card displays young women of the Lumbwa Tribe in full body draping and head coverings like hoods with circles cut out for the eyes. They’re standing near Osa Johnson who was rigged up in 1920s Indiana Jones safari gear with a wide brim hat covering her coiffure.
The card advertised Maiden Voyages, a San Francisco based guide to women’s travel and I received it during my years as a writer for the Washington Post. The postmark is faint; the stamp cost 20 cents, so that was a while ago. By the way, that maiden-voyages.com website is up for sale now, so the publisher must have moved on. A similar web address, Maiden Voyage, offers connections to like minded travelers so women don’t have to dine alone on business trips.
Martin and Osa Johnson lived the get-up-and-go global nomad lifestyle at a time when the going wasn’t all that easy. Equipment and clothing a century ago weighed considerably more than in 2013. Food, lodging and transport options weren’t as diverse or easy to arrange.
The museum collection includes their films, photographs and memorabilia, natural history specimens and other collections donated by early travel film makers. The images in the Le Blond collection depict women mountain climbers and cyclists in the 1880s.
Photos from the expeditions by Martin and Osa Johnson are indexed by year and destination. I was intrigued by the photos of African people and scenes of the 1920s. The George Eastman House still photograph archive includes some of the Johnson’s photographs.