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A 'Female Columbus' in 1887 America: marking new social territory {1}

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As a self-styled 'female Columbus', E. Catherine Bates took a transcontinental journey across North America with a woman companion in the late 1880s and, on her return to England, published A Year in the Great Republic . This paper, following critical theory approaches to the study of travel writing, explores the ways in which several of Bates's many-layered social identities as a woman of the British e lite class came to the fore in her travel narrative. I argue that Bates constructed her narrative primarily around her shifting gender identities- as 'feminine' and 'feminist'- and suggest that imperialistic writing was less apparent because she was travelling to a place that had an 'empire-to-empire' rather than a 'colony-to-empire', relationship to Britain during its 'Age of Empire'. In this paper I am searching for a middle ground between what I have termed 'modernist' interpretations of women's travel writing and the more recent post-structural interpretations. I make the case that Victorian women travellers' revisionist commentary on gender roles, as well as their observations of domestic scenes, should remain in focus as we continue to mark them for historical study.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1995-09-01

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