MAY 9: Freya Stark (1893-1993)

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 1993, the trailblazing travel writer Freya Stark
passed away in Asolo, Italy. Having lived to the age of 100, Freya wrote over
two dozen novels about her explorations in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Syria.

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Although Freya married twice, both marriages were short lived and eventually resulted in separation (x).

Freya was born January 31, 1893 in Paris, France. Her
parents were liberal-minded socialites; her mother was Italian and her father
was a well-known British painter, but at the time of her birth, they were both studying
art in Paris. Freya was raised in the northern part of Italy reading books and
studying languages. After an accident left her bedridden in the hospital for
four months, Freya spent her time mastering Arabic and Persian. She would later
go on to graduate from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the
University of London.

Freya’s post-college plans were put on hold by the outbreak
of World War I, and so she enlisted as a nurse on the Italian front until the
end of the war. It wasn’t until 1927 when she was able to travel to Lebanon and
begin her travels. In 1931, she completed her third dangerous adventure into
western Iran and into the mythical Valley of Assassins. Freya’s willingness to
travel to parts of the world where no known Westerner had ever been before is was
launched her reputation as a fearless explorer and what made her books so
popular in England and America – which were cultures seeped in Orientalism at the time.

It
was Molly Izzard, Freya’s biographer, who first stated that she believed Freya
to be a lesbian. Although Freya never spoke publicly about her sexuality, Molly
Izzard knew her personally while she lived in Egypt and based her claims on her
own personal relationship with Freya. Freya’s last expedition was to
Afghanistan in 1970 and her last novel was The Journey’s Echo, published in 1988. She passed away just a few months after her 100th
birthday in Asolo, Italy. To learn more about Freya Stark’s life and work you
can check out Freya Stark: A Biography by Molly Izzard or head on over to this
biographical article!

-LC