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Jane Robinson (ed.) Unsuitable for Ladies. Women travellers. Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858) several journeys round the world Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925) woman mountaineer an early feminist Map-maker, geologist, geographer Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969)

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Jane Robinson (ed.) Unsuitable for Ladies

Travel Literature 9


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Women travellers

  • Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858)

    • several journeys round the world

  • Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925)

    • woman mountaineer

    • an early feminist

    • Map-maker, geologist, geographer

  • Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969)

    • first western woman to enter Lhasa, the Forbidden City of Tibet

  • Freya Stark (1893-1993)

    • Journeys to inaccessible parts of Arabia

Travel Literature 9


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Structure

  • Introduction, followed by short extracts on

    • The Continent (Crossing the Channel, France, Spain, Germany)

    • The Alps and Italy

    • Scandinavia, Eastern Europe

    • The Near (‘Middle’) East

    • Africa

    • Asia

    • The Americas

    • Coming home

Travel Literature 9


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The genders divided

  • ‘Men’s travels are to do with What and Where, and women’s with How and Why’ (xiv)

  • Riding man-fashion as opposed to side-saddle (74)

  • Clothing is also a great hindrance, but so are feminine mannerisms (169)

  • Do women respond to new environments in a more poetic way than men? See Karen Blixen on African air (190-1); can you find other examples?

Travel Literature 9


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The genders united

  • [When asked about the dangers] Weighing the intense thirst and burning heat, the fever and mosquitoes, the not being able to take off clothing for days on end, even the shortage of food, I can truthfully answer ‘Yes’. For I was not the same being – sex had disappeared (Lady Richmond Brown, 1924; 17)

  • ‘I used to pray every night that I might wake up and find myself a boy […] Many years afterwards […] I was pitchforked into the Serbian Army and for seven years lived practically a man’s life’ (Flora Sandes, 105)

Travel Literature 9


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Difficulties: the traditional view

  • Needs greater protection

  • Her constitution not necessarily suited to enduring hardship

    • Menstruation and childbirth

  • Duties at home such as managing children, parents, housework

    (xv)

    • ‘Stay and mind the babies, or hem our rugged shirts’ (3)

  • Samivel, L’Amateur d’abîmes (1940): ‘True women are too tender for the rigours of the mountains’ (51)

Travel Literature 9


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Psychological

  • Here lie the greater obstacles

    • Lack of a competitive spirit

    • Unable to see the point of pushing oneself to extremes

    • Unwilling to spend large sums of money on something that serves no obvious purpose

    • Focus on the home rather than on distant places

Travel Literature 9


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Prejudice

  • Even Spain must be considered a semi-civilised country, so long as a respectable, quietly-dressed woman, walking quietly alone, is subject to insult and outrage in the streets […] Even accompanied by a guide, I was yet subjected to hooting and insult (Mary Eyre, Over the Pyrenees into Spain, 1865, 27)

  • And of course, some women travellers do seem just interested in home-making, cookery and social visits (80; 177-8)

Travel Literature 9


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Women pilgrims

  • In early mediaeval times, there were many famous women pilgrims

    • In 327-8, Empress Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, visited the Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Sinai, identified Mount Sinai, found the true cross, decided where churches should be built, and established the cult of the Cross (written up by Eusebius of Caesaria)

    • In 381-4, a Spanish nun, Egeria, went to Mount Sinai, Jerusalem and Constantinople, in the footsteps of the prophets, of Christ, - and of the Empress Helena (fragmentary manuscript survives; see 152-155)

    • The Roman matron Paula and her daughter Eustochium undertook a pilgrimage in A.D. 385 to the Holy Places, to Africa, to Israel, before settling down with St. Jerome in Bethlehem, financially supporting him and assisting his labours with translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (letter to Marcella, published by Jerome)

Travel Literature 9


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Ida Pfeiffer (Vienna 1797-1858)

  • After freeing herself from family obligations, she travelled down the Danube to the Black Sea, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Cairo

    • Visit to the Holy Land, Egypt, and Italy 1846

    • Journey to Iceland, and Travels in Sweden and Norway.

  • 1846 sailed round the world via Brazil, Tahiti, Macao, Canton, India, Iraq, Iran

    • A Lady's Voyage Round the World

  • Second trip round the world in 1851-5, Cape Town, Borneo, Sumatra (among Batak tribe, cannibals), San Francisco, South America

    • A Lady's Second Journey Around the World

  • Third trip to Madagascar

Travel Literature 9


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Ida Pfeiffer in 1842

  • My friends and relations attempted in vain to turn me from my purpose by painting, in the most glowing colours, all the dangers and difficulties which await the traveller in those regions. Men were obliged to consider if they had physical strength […] and strength of mind bravely to face the dangers of the plague, the climate, the attacks of insects, bad diet, etc. And to think of a woman’s venturing alone, without protection of any kind, into the wide world, across sea and mountain plane – it was quite preposterous (5)

Travel Literature 9


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Fanny Bullock Workman: 1859-1925

  • Early champion of bicycling in Spain, Algeria, Ceylon, Java,  Sumatra, India and Vietnam

  • Then took up mountain-climbing, explored the Himalayas with her husband but also travelled alone as a pioneer geographer

  • Set womens’ climbing record of 21,000 ft (1903), and 23,300 ft (1906)

  • Undertook mapping work in the Himalayas, especially in the Karakorum Range (7 visits)

    • an early feminist who had occasion to complain of "sex antagonism" from male scientists and climbers

    • A supporter of higher education for women and perhaps the first woman ever to have lectured at the Sorbonne

Travel Literature 9


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Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969)

  • The first western woman to enter Lhasa, the Forbidden City of Tibetin 1924

  • In 1914 she met the young Aphur Yongden, whom she later adopted. They retired to a hermitage in a cave, 3,900 metres above sea level, in northern Sikkim

See: Alexandra David-Néel, La Femme aux Semelles de Vent (CD)

Travel Literature 9


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Permanent Runaway

  • One of the world’s most passionate travellers

    • Aged 15: to England

    • Aged 17: to Switzerland

    • Aged 18: Cycled to Spain

    • Sang at the Athens opera, composed a lyrical drama

    • 1890 spent a year in India

    • 1899 wrote an anarchist pamphlet

    • 1900 Year in India

    • 1904 Marriage to Philippe Néel

    • 1911-1916 in India and Sikkim; twice entered Tibet

Travel Literature 9


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Philippe Néel and his railway

Travel Literature 9


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Lhasa 1924

  • She arrived here finally in 1924, dressed as a beggar, having walked across China and crossed the Himalayas

Travel Literature 9


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Freya Stark: 1893-1993

  • Famous for her expeditions to Arab countries and the Orient, Central Asia, Turkey and Persia

  • 1912 Bedford College, London. Studied English and History, then acquired a knowledge of Arabic

  • 1927 visited Damascus, Lebanon, Transjordan, Palestine and Egypt

  • 1929 Made Baghdad her base

Travel Literature 9


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Publications

  • Documented her travels in 30 books

  • Her first major book was:

    • The Valley of the Assassins (1934)

  • This was followed by:

    • Southern Gates of Arabia (1935)

    • Baghdad Sketches (1937)

    • Winter in Arabia (1940)

  • Later life spent largely in Italy and Cyprus

Travel Literature 9


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Coping with adversity

  • Lady Duff Gordon enjoys her meat and beer in a gale at sea while most of the soldiers on board are ‘utterly sick’ (20)

  • Lady Mary Montagu and others gain access to Turkish harems and baths where they can observe local women and customs (109-114)

Travel Literature 9


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Setting themselves limits

‘Then do you, my dear young lady, know nothing of politics?’

‘English ladies are not interested in politics.’

‘I beg your pardon. I get more letters on politics from English ladies than from men.’

‘I fear then, that I must plead ignorance’, said I, and there the matter ended.

(Ethel Howard, Potsdam Princess, 1916, 40)

Travel Literature 9


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Sentiment(ality)?

  • A vulgar parade of a man’s power against brute endurance, the animal blooded to weakness without defence, a man full of strength with all possible defences and determined to preserve not only his skin, but his limbs, his dainty clothes and resplendent stockings. I call it dastardly, I never went again! (Frances Elliot, Diary of an Idle Woman in Spain, 1884, 35) See also Karen Blixen on Elephants (219)

Travel Literature 9


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Clothing

  • The [Turkish] dress – which, if female envy did not spoil every thing in the world of women – would be graceful (109)

  • Advantages of a veil for Turkish women (113-4)

  • ‘I had been wandering around the landing with a towel round my head when I remembered that Muslim women sometimes do this to indicate that their husbands have just made love to them […] I retired discreetly to my room’ (June Emerson, 1987, 136)

  • Conversely, Sarah Hobson goes to great lengths to dress as a man in Iran, only to become the victim of ‘homosexual’ advances (167)

Travel Literature 9


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Clothing, 2

  • Florence Baker’s diary ends with a long list of items (gloves, handkerchiefs) that she needs in Africa (205-6)

  • Only a woman will comprehend what the loss of the last hat-pin means in Africa! (213)

  • Lady Sale, imprisoned in Afghanistan, 1841-2: ‘We luxuriated in dressing, although we had no clothes but those on our backs’ (290)

  • Mary Stopes in Japan: ‘Mrs D– had another lovely frock’ (332)

Travel Literature 9


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Food

  • I’m not sure if women pay more attention to food than male travellers; but see:

    • Lady Anne Blunt on how to cook locusts (178)

    • Oha Johnson’s Christmas menu (197)

Travel Literature 9


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Lucile Duff-Gordon, 15 April 1912

  • I remember that I teased Miss Francatelli about the weird assortment of clothes the poor girl had flung on before leaving the ship, for she was generally fussy over her clothes."Just fancy, you actually left your beautiful nightdress behind you!" I said, and we all laughed as though I had said something very witty..."

    "Never mind, madam, you were lucky to come away with your lives," said one of the crew members. "Don't you bother about anything you had to leave behind you." "You can afford to buy new ones when you get ashore. What about us poor fellows? We have lost all our kit, and our pay stops from the moment the ship went down.“ (Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, Discretions and Indiscretions, 1932)

  • ‘Charles Hendrickson, a leading fireman, said that No. 1 boat left the ship with only twelve people on board. Lady Duff Gordon was among them. The two women in the boat, he said, told the crew not to go back to attempt rescues, and the boat did not go […] In reply to Lord Mersey, Hendrickson said that it was the women passengers who objected. The men passengers said nothing.’ (Daily Sketch, 12 May 1912)

Travel Literature 9


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Sacrifice

  • Mary Seacole (1805 - 1881)

  • Born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Scottish soldier, and a Jamaican woman who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers

  • visited other Caribbean islands, including Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as Central America and Britain

  • Determined to nurse British soldiers, rejected by Florence Nightingale, she went out to the Crimea to do her bit (83-87)

  • The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857

Travel Literature 9


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Links

  • On women as pilgrims:

    • http://www.umilta.net/egeria.html

  • Ida Pfeiffer, Alexandra David-Néel

    • http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/pfeiffer.html

    • http://www.alexandra-david-neel.org/anglais/acca.htm

    • Dorothy Middleton, Victorian Lady Travellers. Trade Paperback, 1985. [CT 3203]

Travel Literature 9


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