Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower


Women have been involved in exploration as adventurers, discoverers, mountaineers, and botanists for centuries. Yet, women have largely been unrecognized as explorers. This project shows that women in exploration have had to practice physical and rhetorical strategies to overcome historical and traditional gender biases in exploration and its related fields. Expanding on Homi Bhabha’s explanation of colonial mimicry, I argue that twentieth-century American women explorers practiced a form of gender-based mimicry to make their presence in exploration possible. At times, they mimicked their male explorer-counterparts such as when they inhabited the imperial gaze. At other times, they employed gendered rhetorical strategies, such as the use of self-effacement. Taken together, these strategies allowed women of the time to work in the male-dominated field of exploration while carving out a place in the field for the women who followed.