The starting point for this essay is Doris Yedamski’s pioneering
research paper on ‘Women Travellers in the Malay Archipelago’.
Yedamski begins by noting that, at the time of her paper, there had
been no systematic study of women’s travel in the region (2). Yet, as
she observes: ‘Travelling women in nineteenth-century Europe were
far from being rare phenomena. As long as they visited relatives
overseas, or sometimes went abroad for educational purposes,
women were allowed to travel’ (31). There were, of course, other
women travellers who did not fit into either of these categories.
Shirley Foster, for example, notes how ‘health’ was also an
acceptable motive for women’s travels, and draws attention to the
paradoxical linkage (for women travellers) between ‘physical
weakness and geographical mobility’. Nevertheless, Yedamski’s
paper produces a useful typology of women travellers in the
archipelago: ‘accompanying women’, solo travellers, or ‘unprotected
females’ (to use the language of the time), and tourists. I will be using
this typology (and many of Yedamski’s examples) later in the essay.