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Jeanne Barret


Jeanne Baré in a sailor's uniform (1817).

Jeanne Barret (or Baré, Baret, née Barer note 1 ), born July 27, 1740 in La Comelle and died August 5 , 1807 in Saint-Aulaye ( Saint-Antoine-de-Breuilh ), in France , is an explorer and botanist French.

She is notably known for being the first woman to have traveled the world 1 with the Bougainville expedition on the Boudeuse and the Star from 1766 to 1769 2 . Disguised as a man, under the name Jean Barret, she enlisted as a valet and assistant to the expedition naturalist, Philibert Commerson , shortly before the expedition ships set sail. According to Bougainville, she was an expert in botany

Source 2019 - France Culture

The Solanum baretiae named in honor of Jeanne Barret.

Jeanne Barret, the first woman to travel around the world

A little Burgundian orphan, brilliant botanist, she will be the first woman to travel around the world, disguised as a man in 1767. Jeanne Barret is responsible for the discovery in France of nearly 3,000 species of plants.

Jeanne Barret was hired at 22 as a governess with a doctor and botanist, Philibert Commerson. She undertakes the study of flora at his side, learns to recognize and classify plants, makes herbaria… They are in love and Jeanne becomes pregnant even though they are not married. Honest by those around them, they move to Paris and lose their young child.

They frequented the greatest Parisian scientists of the time, such as the naturalists Jussieu and Buffon. Philibert is therefore recommended to accompany Bougainville on a trip around the world. His mission  ? Observe, collect, classify and preserve specimens of the local flora at each stopover. At that time, women had been banned on the King's ships since 1689, but Jeanne decided otherwise.

Dress up to get on board

On February 1, 1767, from Rochefort, she embarked with Philibert, disguised as a man  : hair cut to the boy, bandaged chest, in pants ... She calls herself Jean, valet and assistant to the botanist. Aboard L'Étoile, then La Boudeuse Jeanne and Philibert set sail for the Americas. To silence the rumors, Jeanne redoubles her work on the bridge  :

" How to recognize a woman in this tireless Baré  ? (...) [She had] a courage and a strength which had earned her the nickname "beast of burden". Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, 1772

At each stopover, she ventures with Philibert in search of new species. They develop a gigantic herbarium and discover a shrub near Rio de Janeiro which they call bougainvillea, the bougainivillea, in homage to their captain. According to the Voyage around the world of Bougainville, Jeanne Barret who had managed to fool an entire crew for two years, was unmasked and attacked by Tahitians during a stopover  :  

" Baré had barely dismounted, when the Tahitians surrounded him, shouted that she was a woman and wanted to do her the honors of the island. Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, 1772

However, the logbooks of Bougainville's companions rather evoke sexual assaults coming from the crew. She protects herself with two pistols the rest of the crossing.

The years in Mauritius

Jeanne and Philibert disembark and settle on the Isle of France, now Mauritius. They are welcomed by the botanist Pierre Poivre with whom they continue to collect the local flora. Five years later, Jeanne finds herself alone after Philibert's death. She runs a cabaret and is even convicted of selling alcohol on a day of mass.
She has the 34 boxes of botanical samples sent to Paris, inside 5
  000 different species including 3  000 were still unknown in France. She later marries a soldier and they return to France. In 1785, Bougainville pleaded for her to receive a royal pension, which she would obtain from Louis XVI, who then called her “extraordinary woman” for having been the first woman to travel around the world.

Louis XVI will name her extraordinary woman

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