(CNN) — They’d traveled hundreds and thousands of miles between them, but explorer Blair Niles and one-time spy Marguerite Harrison were disappointed to learn that they were deemed unsuitable to join the Explorers Club.
Despite their considerable travel achievements, the pair were banned from becoming members as the club, founded in 1904, did not admit women.
In fact, its president, Roy Chapman Andrews, would go on to declare that “women are not adapted to exploration,” while addressing female students at New York’s Barnard College in 1932.
Niles, who’d already been on an expedition to Asia, and Harrison, America’s first female foreign intelligence agent, decided to expand their network after discussing their frustrations over lunch.
They invited economic geographer Gertrude Shelby and journalist Gertrude Emerson, who had led an expedition to Asia, over for tea and by the end of their meeting, the four women had agreed to start their own club.
In 1925, the foursome founded the Society of Women Geographers so that women explorers like themselves could get together and share their experiences.
Although membership wasn’t exclusive to explorers, those who joined had to be “women who have really done things,” according to a letter that Harrison wrote to explorer Harriet Chalmers Adams, the society’s first president…