Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969)

Alexandra David-Neel in Lhasa, 1924 (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Alexandra David-Néel was born in Sante-Mande, France on 24 October 1868, and died in Digne-les-Bains on 8 September 1969. She was a brave and adventurous lady who loved exploring and she wrote many travel books.

In the 19th century, most women were expected to get married and have a family. They did not have careers, they were not allowed to study at unversity, and they had to do what their fathers and husbands told them to do. But even when Alexandra was a child, she always wanted the freedom to do what she wanted to do. By the time she was 18 she had already travelled to England, and cycled from Brussels in Belguim to Spain. She also studied at the Theosophical Society.

In 1890 and 1891 she went to India to study Hinduism, and only came back when she ran out of money. On the way home, she stopped in North Africa where she studied Islam. She went back again to India in 1911 to study Buddhism.

She met her husband, Philippe Neel when she travelled to Tunisia and married him in 1904. He did not stop her from travelling.

She set off for Tibet in1911, when visitors were forbidden, and stayed there for 14 years. She met the 13th Dalai Lama and asked him many questions about Buddhism. No woman had ever done these things before!

In the middle of World War 1, (1914-1918) she went to Japan and then Korea with her friend Aphur Yongden, who was a Buddhist monk.

In 1924, she trekked across China and then Lhasa.

In 1937 she travelled through the Soviet Union (now Russia), back to China during World War 2 (1939-1945) and then to India again.
she did not go back home to France uneil 1946 when she was 78 years old.

Alexandra David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. She continued to study and write till her death at age 100.

Sources: and This Living Century: The Adventurers, published by The Australian, 2000