top of page

Milbry Polk - Explorer and Photo Journalist, Founder of Wings WorldQuest

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Milbry C. Polk (BA, honors) Radcliffe College, Harvard University, has lectured in more 150 schools, universities and public affairs organizations. She co-founded and was executive director of Wings WorldQuest, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting women at the leading edge of science and discovery. She also founded and directed programs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian. She was Vice-Chair of the Conference on Affordable World Security (Newseum, March 27-28, 2012).

Among her writings are Women of Discovery (Library Journal award Best Books of 2001 and School Library Journal, Best Books); Egyptian Mummies (Margaret A. Edwards Award best books); editor, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad; and Reviews and Contributing Editor of The Explorers Journal, 1998-the present. She co-founded with Imagination Celebration, and wrote yearly curriculum for nine years for The Art of Exploration, a program for the Public Schools of Ft. Worth, Texas.

She led or participated in expeditions to Prince William Sound, Alaska; the Western Desert of Egypt (National Geographic); Yemen; Southern Sudan; Saudi Arabia; Iran; Pakistan; John River, Alaska; Nepal; Brazilian coast; Greenland; Baffin Island; Devon Island; India (American Museum of Natural History); Chinese Tibet; NW Greenland, and the Andaman Sea.

Ms. Polk's honors include: The Sweeney Medal, The Explorers Club, Capt. J-E Bernier Medal, Royal Canadian Geographic Society (2015), Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award (2011); Alumnae of the Year, Madeira School (2011), Environmental Leadership Award, Unity College; Womens' ENews “Leader of the 21st Century”, Who's Who, Women of the Year Award; Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of The Explorers Club and Fellow of Wings WorldQuest. She is on the Board of The Explorers Club, serves on numerous Advisory Boards and served for ten years on the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club.

New episodes of the Tough Girl Podcast go live every Tuesday and Thursday at 7am UK time - Make sure you hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out.

The Tough Girl Podcast is sponsorship and ad free thanks to the monthly financial support of patrons. To find out more about supporting your favourite podcast and becoming a patron please check out


Listen to Milbry Now!

Click here if you can't see the link below.

  • Introduction

  • Her background

  • Being born in Oxford, UK and growing up between Europe, Egypt and America

  • Becoming a photo journalist in the 70s & 80s

  • Working with Margaret Mead

  • Thinking of doing a PHD at Oxford

  • Figuring out what she truly wanted to do

  • Following the route of Alexander the Great

  • Starting to put together expeditions and selling them to magazines

  • Working in the Middle East & Asia

  • Wanting to be an explorer from a young age

  • Using her initials to apply for a guiding expedition course

  • Life as a photojournalist

  • Respecting the local culture

  • Taking photos of Yemen

  • How exploration has changed over the past 40/50 years

  • The importance of curiosity

  • Getting married and getting pregnant

  • How life changed after having a baby

  • Being introduced to women explorers

  • Having a library of 1,500 books on women explorers and adventurers

  • Going to find women explorers from India

  • Wanting to create a Women Explorers Library

  • Wanting to keep the collection of books together

  • The importance of learning women’s stories

  • Being driven by your passion

  • Reading everything and being fascinated by history

  • How Wings WorldQuest was started

  • How it evolved

  • Starting to focus more on education

  • Why it’s an exciting time to be a young woman

  • Joining the Explorers Club in 1994 as a Fellow and now being on the board

  • Working with Adventure Canada

  • Going outside her comfort zone

  • Doing adventures/expeditions without technology

  • Needing to be careful

  • Keeping positive during tough situations

  • Building a fellowship of women

  • Women supporting women

  • Future expeditions

  • Writing book reviews and writing a book on her great grandmother

  • New book - Women of the Arctic

  • Babes & Death

  • Women on pilgrimages

  • Going back to Oxford to do her PhD

  • Needing to update her website

  • Final words of advice

  • Figuring out your passion

  • Why there is no such thing as failure

  • Listen to your inner self


Social Media

Wing WorldQuest - WINGS was formed in 2003 to identify and support the discoveries and accomplishments of women explorers and scientists and to inspire the next generation of problem solvers.

Instagram - @wingsworldquest

Facebook - @WINGSWorldQuest


Feeling inspired week after week?

You can do 3 easy things to help me continue to grow the podcast!

  1. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, so you won’t miss a single episode

  2. If you’re loving the podcast, please leave a 5-star review on iTunes! I read every single comment!

  3. Share the podcast with your friends, especially if you think it could help them, and spread the #ToughGirlPodcast love.

Your support helps me continue to grow the podcast and do inspiring things in this space! Already done all 3? You’re a rockstar! Thank you!

Want to do more?

Please become a Patron and donate US$5 a month to help fund the runnings costs. Thank you.

Become my Patron


bottom of page