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Monday, September 19, 2005

Female writers on Project Gutenberg

This evening I read the first chapter of Sisters written by Englishwoman Ada Cambridge (1844-1926) in 1904. It's very vivid in its descriptions and would make excellent television. I don't want to give the ending away but they get in a boat and someone doesn't make it.

I followed it with the beginning of Canadian school teacher Agnes Deans Cameron's THE NEW NORTH: Being Some Account of a Woman's Journey through Canada to the Arctic published in 1909. Where Cambridge sounds archaic ADC's prose style is strikingly contemporary. She writes:

Kipling speaks of "a route unspoiled of Cook's," and we have found it. Going to the office of Thos. Cook & Son, in Chicago, with a friend who had planned a Mediterranean tour, I gently said, "I wonder if you can give me information about a trip I am anxious to take this summer." The young man smiled and his tone was that which we accord to an indulged child, "I guess we can. Cook & Son give information on most places." "Very well," I said, "I want to go from Chicago to the Arctic by the Mackenzie River, returning home by the Peace and the Lesser Slave. Can you tell me how long it will take, what it will cost, and how I make my connections?" He was game; he didn't move an eyebrow, but went off to the secret recesses in the back office to consult "the main guy," "the chief squeeze," "the head push," "the big noise." Back they came together with a frank laugh, "Well, Miss Cameron, I guess you've got us. Cook's have no schedule to the Arctic that way." They were able, however, to give accurate information as to how one should reach Hudson Bay, with modes of travel, dates, and approximate cost. But this journey for another day.

There are more links to books and sites about female explorers here, as well as a link to a book about female arctic travellers including ADC.

Historians of late nineteenth-century France might enjoy American writer Mary King Waddington's My first years as a Frenchwoman, 1876-1879. The first chapter opens with the aftermath of the war.

The Franco-German War was just over--the French very sore and bitter after
their defeat. There was a strong underlying feeling of violent animosity to the
Emperor, who had lost them two of their fairest provinces, and a passionate
desire for the revanche. The feeling was very bitter between the two branches of
the Royalist party, Legitimists and Orleanists. One night at a party in the
Faubourg St. Germain, I saw a well-known fashionable woman of the extreme
Legitimist party turn her back on the Comtesse de Paris. The receptions and
visits were not always easy nor pleasant, even though I was a stranger and had no
ties with any former government. I remember one of my first visits to a
well-known Legitimist countess in the Faubourg St. Germain; I went on her
reception day, a thing all young women are most particular about in Paris. I
found her with a circle of ladies sitting around her, none of whom I knew. They
were all very civil, only I was astonished at the way the mistress of the house
mentioned my name every time she spoke to me: "Madame Waddington, êtes-vous allée à l'Opéra hier soir," "Madame Waddington,vous montez à cheval tous les matins, je crois," "Monsieur Waddington va tous les vendredis à l'Institut, il me
semble," etc. I was rather surprised and said to W. when I got home, "How curious
it is, that way of saying one's name all the time; I suppose it is an old-fashioned French custom. Madame de B. must have said 'Waddington' twenty
timesduring my rather short visit." He was much amused. "Don't you know why? So
that all the people might know who you were and not say awful things about the
'infecte gouvernement' and the Republic, 'which no gentleman could serve.'"

I've only dipped into these three works but I think there's more than enough to keep me going!


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