Beyond Domesticity: U.S. Women Writers, 1770-1915


Introduction l True Womanhood l New Women l Growing Up Female l Political Women l Suffrage l Abolition l Women and War l Work Outside the Home l Cookery and Fancy-Work l Work Inside the Home l Mothering l Marriage l Marriage and Divorce l Regionalism l Travel l Bestsellers l Highlights l English 437: Students Research Rare Books




Around the World with Josiah Allen's Wife

The conventional wisdom about white middle-class women held that their proper sphere was the home. The items in this case challenge that wisdom by attesting to the prevalence of travel among women of this class. The authors here not only traveled but also published enthusiastic accounts of their journeys both at home and abroad for readers less fortunate and less mobile.

“To those individuals, whose hospitality made travelling poetical”

Caroline Gilman, 1794-1888.

The Poetry of Traveling in the United States, With Additional Sketches, by A poetry of travelingFew Friends
From the Library of Alfred Chapin Rogers.
New York: S. Colman, 1838.

Born in Boston, Gilman moved to Charleston, South Carolina, soon after marrying her husband, a Unitarian minister, in 1819. This volume, containing both verse and prose, depicts both  a “Northern Excursion” and a “Southern Excursion” with the aim of making the volume attractive “to both the Northern and Southern reader” in order to increase “a good sympathy between different portions of the country.”

“Might it go forth with the voyager...may it be as a sunbeam, brightening the memory of home”

Lydia Sigourney, 1791-1865.

poems for the seaPoems for the Sea.
Hartford: H.S. Parsons & Co., 1850.

This volume of verse “for the sea” and for sea voyagers by the “Sweet Singer of Hartford” was published relatively late in this prolific author and poet’s career. For over thirty years, beginning in the early 1830s, Sigourney published at least one and often two books a year.

“Long summer days of dear-bought pleasure”

Margaret Fuller, 1810-1850.

summer on the lakes in 1843Summer on the Lakes, in 1843.
Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown; New York: Charles S. Francis and Company, 1844.
Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth Century American Literature.

Fuller’s first original work, this book describes her “summer’s wanderings” to various lakes in the Midwest, a trip she begins and ends in Buffalo at Niagara. This copy is inscribed by Fuller to Constanza Arconati, her closest friend in Italy.

“her voyage to a home which proved to be not in this land”

Margaret Fuller [Ossoli], 1810-1850.

at home and abroad or things and thoughts in america and europeAt Home and Abroad, Or Things and Thoughts in America and Europe.
Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Company and London: Sampson Low, Son, & Co., 1856.
Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth Century American Literature.

This posthumously published volume contains both Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes and letters from her travels through England, France, and Italy. From Italy, she reported on the 1848-49 upheaval in Italian politics for the New York Tribune, lending her support to the republicans including Garibaldi. While abroad, she met and married another supporter of the republic, the Marchese Giovanni Angelo Ossoli. The couple was traveling from Italy to the United States with their small son in 1850 when their ship struck ground and the family drowned within sight of the New York shore.

Caroline H. Dall, 1822-1912.

Patty Gray’s Journey. On the Way; Or, Patty at Mount Vernon.
Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1870.
Author’s inscribed presentation copy.
patty gray's journey. on the way; or patty at mount vernon
One in a series of children’s travel or “journey” stories by this long-lived author, journalist, lecturer, lay preacher, Transcendentalist, and champion of women's rights.

Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 1789-1867.

Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1841.
letters from abroad to kindred at home
A widely-published American novelist whose works include A New-England Tale, Hope Leslie, and The Linwoods, Sedgwick felt her collection of letters from Europe would interest her readers due to “the honesty with which I have recorded my impressions, and to the fresh aspect of familiar things to the eye of a denizen of the New World.”



“well-nigh the fairest spot on earth.”

Helen Hunt [Jackson], 1830-1885.

Colorado Springs.
Reprinted from “Bits of Travel at Home.”
Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883.
popular books by hh
A novelist, journalist and activist on behalf of Native Americans, Hunt (or “H. H.,” as she signed all her works) published this excerpt from her “Bits of Travel” series separately five years after its original appearance. Hunt first visited the Colorado Springs area in the winter of 1873-74 while searching for a cure for tuberculosis and subsequently made Colorado her home.

“it duz seem sort o’ pitiful, don’t it, to think how sort o’ homeless the Americans are a gettin’?”

Marietta Holley [“Josiah Allen’s Wife”], 1836-1926.

Samantha at Saratoga, or “Racin’ After Fashion.”
New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1887.
Gift of Sarah Crawford Fox.
samantha at saratoga
Holley, who never married,  wrote a series of satirical books about women’s rights and roles using the pen name “Josiah Allen’s Wife,” Samantha Allen. In this volume, Samantha and Josiah travel to the fashionable resort of Saratoga.


Marietta Holley, 1836-1926.

Around the World with Josiah Allen’s Wife.
New York: G. W. Dillingham, 1905.
around the world with josiah allen's wife
A review of this volume featured in The New York Times the year it was published begins:
“For 471 pages the celebrated Samantha, wife of Josiah, indulges in her peculiar vein of comment and episodic narrative, taking care to use the dialect which has been invented for plain American people when they appear in literature. Many words are misspelled and all the rules of grammar ingeniously violated.”

Marietta Holley, 1836-1926.

Samantha at Coney Island and A ThousandOther Islands
New York:The Christian Herald, 1911.
Yet another, late entry in the Samantha Allen travel series.
marietta holley "samantha"

samantha at coney island and a thousand other islands




World’s Fair Handkerchief, 1893.
Collection of McKissick Museum, gift of Agnes Stone Dawsey.

This embroidered white silk handkerchief is a souvenir of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Though small, this lady’s keepsake reminded its owner of the journey to Chicago, as well as her experiences there. For many visitors, the World’s Fair was a first introduction to new innovations and foreign cultural traditions. Through these new sights and sounds, female visitors encountered a world extending far beyond their domestic realities. 


Trunk, ca. 1880-1900.
Collection of McKissick Museum, gift of Rayburn S. Moore.

American women stored their belongings in trunks like this one when traveling by ship, train, and stagecoach. Whether she was exploring Europe or moving to a new state, a female traveler enjoyed opportunities and experiences that broadened her personal horizons. 



Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 1789-1867.

Letters From Abroad to Kindred at Home.
New York: Harper, 1841.
letters from abroad to kindred at home
“No one born and bred in Europe can well imagine how striking the want and beggary of the Old World is to an American eye.”  In this book of letters written during the author's travels through France and Italy, Sedgwick criticizes the vast discrepancy between the upper and lower-classes in Europe. The route the author takes causes her to alternate between descriptions of massive, extravagantly adorned cathedrals and impoverished rustic hovels. She contrasts the idleness and festivity of dwellers in famous cities such as Venice and Milan  to “begging wretches”.
Though it may not be overtly radical, the text strongly encourages its audience to leave their domestic spheres. Sedgwick writes: “I.. wish that my readers may for themselves see the scenes which I have feebly presented”.

Label: Robert Hand.





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