Ida Pfeiffer

* 17.10.1797 (Vienna) 27.10.1858 (Vienna) Austria
Fields of activity: traveller
Author: Lotte Stiegler

 Ida Pfeiffer
„She had a heart that was able to beat for the whole world“
 (Lieselotte Stiegler)
For three years I am living between two cultures of India and Europe with the curiosity and expectation to integrate these two countries as a part of home inside me. For this reason I am very interested in Ida Pfeiffer, a woman, who was travelling around the world under much more difficult conditions than in our centuries.
Ida Pfeiffer, née Reyer, was the first European woman who crossed the interior of Borneo.
After a problematic youth and years of marriage she spent the third period of her life as a globetrotter and successful travel writer – first under a male pseudonym. So she was in the age of “Biedermeier” a noteworthy  exception on her journeys. On her trips she travelled 240000 kilometres and there were 32000 kilometres on four continents.
She wrote many books that had been translated into seven languages.
Travelling does not mean only local change, it means also openness, awareness and tolerance for other cultural and social images.
In the middle of 18th century there was the opinion that travelling is against the nature of women. Only some wealthy women were able to travel. Franz Ludwig Posselt developed a catalogue with specific rules for women traveller. Travelling should be only used by women for approaching their female role. They should enlarge their experiences, therefore they could perceive their role in family life to be successful in society.
Ida Pfeiffer was the third child of a wealthy merchant family in Vienna. In her childhood she read travelogues and dreamed of foreign countries. 1820 she agreed to a marriage of convenience with the 24 years older lawyer Mark Anton Pfeiffer from Lemburg. Then her husband got financial difficulties. A divorce followed and Ida Pfeiffer had to educate her sons alone. When her children were grown up she saw the possibility to live her passion for travel and adventure. On March 22, she travelled to Palästina and Egypt and 1843 her first book came out. She studied English and Danish, went to Norway, Sweden and Iceland. In Stockholm she was presented to the Queen. On her first world tour she went to Rio de Janeiro, Hongkong, Singapore, South India, Mesopotamia and Persia. 1851 she left Vienna again and travelled to South Africa, Sumatra, Ecuador and Peru. The aim of the next trip she started in May 1856 were Mauritius and in April 1857 Madagascar. When political disturbances broke out she was accused of espionage, imprisoned and expelled. In February 1858 she became ill and was forced to return to Europe. On October 28, 1858, she died in Vienna because of the consequences of malaria.
Her records had been very interesting for ethnologists too, because she wrote about cultural peculiarities of foreign peoples, kinds of social and marital life. She took thousands of plants, minerals and historical objects with her, which are presented now in the “Naturhistorisches Museum” and in the “Museum für Völkerkunde” in Vienna.
Reading her books I asked myself, if there is any change nowadays for travelling women? Did their impulse for research increase? How do todays’ women transport and integrate their experience of foreign cultures?  
“Your journey is endless regarding your life on the map of your soul.”
(Lotte Stiegler)
Author:     Lieselotte Stiegler
Translation: Lieselotte Stiegler and Maria Dürr

Photocredits: Ida Pfeiffer, author unknown. Source: , viewed on 5th November 2014.

This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.