American Slavery Through the Eyes of British Women Travelers in the First Half of the 19th Century

Keywords: travel writing, women, slavery, race, antebellum America

Abstract

My paper investigates 19th-century travel writing by British women visiting America: texts by such authors as Frances Trollope, Isabella Bird, or Frances Kemble. I analyze to what extent these travelers’ gender influences their view of race. On the one hand, as Tim Youngs stresses, there seems to be very little difference between male and female travel writing in the 19th century, as women, in order to be accepted by their audience, needed to mimic men’s style (135). On the other hand, women writers occasionally mention their gender, as for example Trollope, who explains that she is not competent enough to speak on political matters, which is why she wishes to limit herself only to domestic issues. This provision, however, may be seen as a mere performance of a conventional obligation, since it does not prevent Trollope from expressing her opinions on American democracy. Moreover, Jenny Sharpe shows how Victorian Englishwomen are trapped between a social role of superiority and inferiority, possessing “a dominant position of race and a subordinate one of gender” (11). This makes the female authors believe that as women they owe to the oppressed people more sympathy than their male compatriots. My paper discusses female writing about the United States in order to see how these writers navigate their position of superiority/inferiority.

Author Biography

Justyna Fruzińska, University of Lodz, Lodz

PhD – holds an MA in American Literature and a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Lodz, Poland, where she holds the position of Assistant Professor and teaches American literature, culture and history. Her publications include Emerson Goes to the Movies: Individualism in Walt Disney Company’s Post-1989 Animated Films (2014) as well as numerous articles on American popular culture, transcendentalism, and Polish poetry. She is a graduate of the Institute of Jewish Studies Paideia in Stockholm as well as a member of the Association for Cultural Studies and Polish Association for American Studies. Her current research interests center around European 19th-century travel writing about America. She is also a published poet and translator working in Polish, English, and Hebrew. Contact address: justyna.fruzinska@uni.lodz.pl.

References

Bassnett, Susan. “Travel Writing and Gender.” The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, edited by Peter Hulme and Youngs, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002: 225–241, https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL052178140X.014.

Bird, Isabella. The Englishwoman in America. London: John Murray, 1856.

Blanton, Casey. Travel Writing: The Self and the World. New York/London: Routledge, 2002.

Deis, Elizabeth J., and Lowell T. Frye. “British Travelers and the ‘Condition-of-America Question’: Defining America in the 1830s.” Nineteenth-Century British Travelers in the New World, edited by Christine Devine. London: Ashgate, 2013: 121–150.

Dunlop, M.H. Sixty Miles from Contentment: Traveling the Nineteenth-Century American Interior. Boulder: Westview Press, 1998.

Frawley, Maria H. A Wider Range: Travel Writing by Women in Victorian England. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1994.

Grattan, Thomas Colley. Civilized America. Vol. 2, London: Bradbury and Evans, 1859.

Kemble, Frances Anne. Journal by Frances Anne Butler. London Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835.

Kemble, Frances Anne. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839. Harper & Brothers, 1864.

Logan, Deborah Anna. “‘My Dearly-Beloved Americans’: Harriet Martineau’s Transatlantic Abolitionism.” Nineteenth-Century British Travelers in the New World, edited by Christine Devine, London: Ashgate, 2013: 203–220.

Marryat, Frederick. A Diary in America, with Remarks on Its Institutions. New York: Wm. H. Colyer, 1839.

Marryat, Frederick. Second Series of a Diary in America, with Remarks on Institutions. T.K. & P.G. Collins, 1840.

Martineau, Harriet. Society in America. Paris: Baudry’s European Library, 1837.

Sharpe, Jenny. Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Thompson, Carl. Travel Writing. London: Routledge, 2011.

Trollope, Fanny. Domestic Manners of the Americans. Nonsuch Publishing Limited, 2006.

Vaccaro, Kristianne Kalata. “Telling ‘a Still More Dismal Story’: Cultural Role-Playing and Surrogate Narration in Kemble’s Georgian Journal.” Nineteenth-Century British Travelers in the New World, edited by Christine Devine, London: Ashgate, 2013: 251–266.

Youngs, Tim. The Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511843150.

Published
2019-02-08
How to Cite
Fruzińska, J. “American Slavery Through the Eyes of British Women Travelers in the First Half of the 19th Century”. Ad Americam, Vol. 19, Feb. 2019, pp. 113-21, doi:10.12797/AdAmericam.19.2018.19.08.