By Isabella Bird. First published in 1880 and reprinted in many editions.
A lady an explorer? A traveller in skirts?
The notion’s just a trifle too seraphic.
Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts,
But they mustn’t, can’t, and shan’t be geographic.
In Britain, where they take their travel seriously, serious travel was long considered a male province, even after women had crossed the borders. During the Victorian era the number of serious women travelers surged, yet as late as 1893—not long after Isabella Bird had returned from exploring Persia, and Kate Marsden from traveling Siberia—the Royal Geographical Society was heatedly debating whether women could qualify as explorers and, perhaps more to the point, as Society members.
The furor over female membership—nicely mocked in the above limerick from Punch--is described with wry humor by Dorothy Middleton in Victorian Lady Travellers. “Throughout,” she observes, “the controversy generates that flavour of ‘The Ladies! God bless 'em!’ so typical of assemblies of Englishmen when called upon to take women seriously.” (more…)