The world doesn’t really know the name of Růžena Holubová though it should. Let me tell you something about this Czech-Austrian explorer and ethnographer.
You know how they say that behind every successful man there’s a strong woman? This phrase might as well have been first said in honor of Růžena Holubová (also known as Rosa Holub). She was the wife of the explorer Emil Holub, though she wasn’t just the wife of an explorer, she was an explorer.
Růžena (born in Austria, of Austrian and later reinstated Czech citizenship) met her future husband when she was just 14 and he had just returned from his first African expedition. She then started working for him as assistant and married Holub, who was 18 years her senior, when she was just 18. It became obvious very soon that she wouldn’t be a housewife – she expressed her wish to accompany her husband.
Růžena Holubová turned out to be not just a supporting wife to Emil but also an important asset on his expeditions. While Emil didn’t speak English or French on his first expedition to Africa, young Růžena was fluent in English (she also spoke Czech and German like Emil). During Holub’s second expedition (her first) she learnt the Boers Dutch and several African languages. So it comes as no surprise that she become the person to go to when it came to communication. She spoke to the locals, the businessmen and even the doctors. Holub’s second expedition members came down with malaria and it was Růžena who managed to get help for everyone. She also knew how to shoot.
She organized ethnographic expositions with her husband and stayed in Vienna after her husband’s passing. She received honorary citizenship of the town Holice and died in Vienna at the age of 93. Růžena and Emil didn’t have children and she left all her husband’s belongings to the African Museum of Dr. Emil Holub in Holice.