Monday, November 29, 2010

A trifle too seraphic ... Mademoiselle Tinne

Mademoiselle Tinne
Continuing with my current interest in female explorers, I note that this amusing bit of doggerel from Punch in June, 1893 has been included in a number of books and essays about the subject.

Lady an explorer? a traveller in skirts?
The notion's just a trifle too seraphic:
Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts;
But they mustn't, can't and shan't be geographic.

Unlike women today who can grab a back-pack, jump on a plane and be in the remotest corner of the world within hours, the adventurous female who set off to explore unknown horizons in the 19th Century usually came from a privileged class. She would have had to have a certain amount of freedom and independence, financial security and a network of important connections. If she had children, she would probably have had someone else look after them anyway and any mending was always done by maids even when tramping about deserts. So it is hardly surprising when researching female explorers from this era to discover they were usually highly accomplished individuals, confident, well-educated and wealthy.
Alexine about to receive her death blows
 Alexandrine (Alexine) Tinne's father was a Dutch diplomat and entrepreneur who died in 1844 when Alexine was eight years old, leaving his wife and daughter one of the largest fortunes in the Netherlands at the time. From a young age, Alexine had a passion for the piano, languages and travel. According to some biographical articles, there seems to have been a brief romance that didn't amount to much. Together with her mother, and later an aunt, who became known as the Dutch Ladies Tinne, she travelled widely in Europe and later through Egypt and the Sudan. Alexine's mother and aunt both died from illnesses at Khartoum and Alexine herself was killed by Tuaregs on a subsequent expedition.
Various reports of Alexine's short life of 34 years are to be found on the Internet, many of them in Dutch or other languages. An English account appeared in Aramco magazine in 1983 although it conflicts somewhat with that provided by the Institute of Dutch History, particularly regarding Alexine's rather gruesome end.
 Like other female explorers of their age, the Tinne ladies did not travel "light". According to whichever report you believe, they had Dutch sailors and/or Irish porters to help them and Alexine took a heavy iron bed with her as well as porcelain china and silver tableware.
Apart from her exploring endeavours, Alexine has other claims to fame. She was also a highly accomplished photographer and some of the earliest photographs of The Hague were the work of Alexine Tinne.

The Hague c. 1860, photograph by Alexine Tinne
A genus of plants have also been named after her plantae tinneanae, and a book was published with her discoveries. See Botanicus. Unfortunately, most of the specimens and artefacts from her exhibitions were destroyed during the war.
Alexine Tinne is much better known in Continental Europe than in English-speaking countries. A number of books have been written about her and she has also been included in various anthologies of female explorers. A book in English about the three Ladies Tinne was published earlier this year (2010) The Dutch Ladies Tinne, in the Sudan by Anna Maria Abushama-Rademaker.

Dutch Ladies Tinne at Khartoum

Miss Tinne at Gerard Rohlfs' camp Tripoli 1869 (British Library)
(Note: copyright of some images in this post have been difficult to etablish with certainty as they are on non-English websites.)

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