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Victorian Women Travelers

Maybe you’ve always wondered what it would have been like to be a 19th-century woman crossing the plains in a pioneer bonnet, skirt, petticoat, and maybe even a corset. But have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be a 19th-century woman traversing the Alps, Palestine, India, West Africa, or even the South Seas? The Victorian Collection has a number of memoirs and travel narratives by “lady travelers” of the period. Some women wrote about places closer to their home in England, say Paris or Italy, but others ventured to the far corners of the globe, such as:

  • Julia Pardoe, The Beauties of the Bosphorus (1838). Pardoe (shown above) was a best-selling author of travel narratives of her sojourn in Turkey and Eastern Europe. She also wrote novels featuring these exotic locales.
  • Marianna Postans, Western India in 1838 (1839). Postans, wife of a British infantry officer, wrote both fiction and travel narratives about the areas of India in which she and her husband were posted.
  • Lady Isabel Burton, The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land (1875). Isabel Burton was the wife of famous Victorian explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton. She wrote two travel accounts and contributed to many of her husband’s books.
  • Amelia B. Edwards, A Thousand Miles Up the Nile  (1877). Edwards, a minor novelist, took a voyage to Egypt which changed her whole life. She became a leading Egyptologist and served as the secretary of England’s premier society for scholarship and exploration of ancient Egypt.
  • Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed LeBlond, High Life and Towers of Silence (1886). Le Blond was one of the first female mountaineers and an accomplished figure in winter sports. She wrote several accounts of climbing the Alps — in knee-length skirts!
  • Mary H. Kinsgley, Travels in West Africa (1897). Kingsley spent much of her adult life traveling through West Africa and as an advocate of preserving tribal culture and society.

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