Women Writing Travel, 1890-1939

in Journeys
Author: Emma Short 1
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  • 1 Newcastle University emma.short@ncl.ac.uk

The rapid expansion of international travel networks toward the end of the nineteenth century resulted in a dramatic shift in women’s access to travel. As Sidonie Smith highlights in Moving Lives, her comprehensive study of women and the technologies of travel in modernity, “large numbers of women began to leave home for the lure of the road as a result of the emergence of faster, safer, cleaner, and more comfortable machines of motion” (2001: xi). This shift in the availability of travel to a much broader spectrum of the general public—and crucially to women—coincided with the impact of first wave feminism as the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum, 1 and the figure of the New Woman appeared across literature and culture. 2 The subsequent surge in women’s written representations of travel was highlighted by Sara Mills in her seminal Discourses of Difference: An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism, in which she observed “the sheer volume of writing” by women on travel during this period (1991: 1), and asserted the importance of further research on these accounts. Following Mills’s call, feminist scholarship has since worked to understand the complexities of women’s travel writing. Like Mills, many of these critics—including Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Strobel (1992), and Mary Louise Pratt (1992)—explore the ways in which such travel accounts were involved in colonialism and implicated in the discourses of imperialism. Others, such as Smith (2001), Avril Maddrell (2009), and Alexandra Peat (2010), have focused particularly on women’s written representations of travel published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Central to much of this scholarship are questions concerning the difference between travel writing by men and that produced by women—whether or not such difference exists and, if it does, how this difference manifests in women’s written representations of travel. Susan Bassnett notes that these “basic questions … continue to occupy feminist scholars” (2002: 227), and indeed, they underpin many of the articles included in this special issue. However, the articles collected here in this special issue also move beyond these questions significantly in their consideration of the ways in which women’s written representations of travel can reshape our understandings of the gendered experience of the spaces of modernity, and thus make a vital contribution to both the cultural and literary history of the period.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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