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Miriam Payne Makes Waves

Miriam Payne rowed a boat across the Atlantic Ocean in less than two months!

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Miriam Payne rowed from the Canary Islands to the island of Antigua.

Imagine rowing a boat across an ocean. That’s just what a woman named Miriam Payne did. And she did it in less than two months!

Payne, who is 23, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 59 days, 16 hours, and 36 minutes. She did this as part of a race called the Talisker Challenge. People in the race can do it solo (alone) or in teams of up to five people.  The race starts at the Canary Islands, which are off the coast of Africa. Rowers travel west to Antigua, which is an island in the Caribbean Sea. The race is 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) long!

During the race, rowers must do everything themselves. They take their own food and water, and if anything happens to their boat, it’s up to them to fix it. (Two ships follow along, in case a rower or rowing team needs to quit the race.) Rowers do take breaks. Their boats have sleeping cabins, and special equipment that lets them know their location in the ocean. 

Payne said rowing under the hot Sun made her very tired. The last 10 miles (16 kilometers) were the toughest, even though she knew she was near the end of the race. 

“I was so tired. I just wanted to get to the end of the race so I could stop rowing,” she later told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). But as she got close to Antigua, she could hear her family and friends cheering. They were waiting to greet her! This gave Payne the energy she needed to finish the race.

Payne arrived at Antigua on February 10. As she arrived, people in the crowd called out, “Way to go, Miriam! That’s it, you’ve done it!” Payne had finished the Talisker Challenge faster than any solo woman ever had before.

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Fun Fact

© Jane Stockdale

Victoria Evans crossed the Atlantic Ocean fast!

Miriam Payne was the fastest solo woman to complete the Talisker Challenge. But another woman holds the Guinness World Record for completing the same route even faster. In 2022, Victoria Evans of England rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in just 40 days and 19 hours.

They Changed the World

March is Women’s History Month. You can read about the amazing women below and many more at Britannica School!

Sarah Winnemucca (1844–1891).

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG.82.137)

Sarah Winnemucca was a Paiute (American Indian) speaker and writer. In 1872, the U.S. government made the Paiute people give up their land so white people could live there. Winnemucca gave speeches around the country. She wanted to let people know what was happening to the Paiute.

Jane Addams (1860–1935).

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C

Jane Addams spent her life helping people. In 1889, she opened Hull House in Chicago, Illinois. Hull House was a place where immigrants could go to get help building their lives in the United States. Addams also spoke in support of laws protecting the rights of workers and the right of women to vote.

Maria Tallchief (1925–2013).

© Baron—Hulton Archive/Getty Imges

Maria Tallchief was a ballet dancer. She was born on an Osage (American Indian) reservation. Her father was Osage, and her mother was white. Tallchief first danced in Europe and then joined the New York City Ballet. She is still thought of as one of the best ballerinas ever. Tallchief later taught ballet and founded the Chicago City Ballet.

Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927–2002).

Gwendolyn Mink—Patsy T. Mink Papers/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first Asian American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress. (Members of Congress make U.S. laws.) Mink helped to pass a law called Title IX (or Title Nine). Title IX requires schools to spend the same amount of money on girls’ and women’s sports and education programs as they do on programs for boys and men. 

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940–2011).

Mark Garten/UN Photo

Wangari Muta Maathai was an environmentalist—a person who works to protect the planet. Born in Kenya, she started her career teaching about veterinary science—the care of animals. She later started the Green Belt Movement, a group that works to have trees planted. In 2003, Maathai became deputy minister of the environment, natural resources, and wildlife in Kenya.

Celebrate Women’s History

Addison N. Scurlock—Michael Ochs Archives, Stephen Shugerman, Andrew Burton, Clive Brunskill, Sasha—Hulton Archive, Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ds-05052, LC-U9-25383-33, LC-DIG-ppmsca-23661); Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum; PRNewsFoto/XM Satellite Radio/AP Images; Sojourner Truth . . . From Her “Book of Life”; NASA;  Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG.2009.36); © Tupungato/; Steve Petteway/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Women have been making history for thousands of years. You can read more about women who changed the world at Britannica School.

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