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Hints to Lady Travellers

This month's special objects have been chosen by Julie Carrington, Library Assistant.

Hints to Lady Travellers

© Royal Geographical Society

Hints to Lady Travellers: at home and abroad. By Lillias Campbell Davidson. London: Iliffe & Son, 1889.


Looking across valley to Yosemite Falls

© Royal Geographical Society

Looking across Valley to Yosemite Falls, California, USA. Photo Underwood & Underwood, 1917

Your Questions

Why did you choose this item?

In the Victorian era there were many examples of strong willed women setting off on adventures around the world. Fanny Bullock Workman trekked in the Himalayas. Mary Kingsley ventured into Africa, Isabella Bird travelled in America and Asia and Kate Marsden became a missionary in Siberia.

My chosen item, Hints to Lady Travellers; at home and abroad by Lillias Campbell Davidson is an entertaining and insightful guide to the experience of not just those adventurous women, but of the more ordinary woman traveller. This work explores the complexities of travel and is a great source for learning about the social viewpoint of the time. It is of particular interest as it focuses on women rather than men, the traditional explorers.

The book offers practical help on the extremely important issue of womens dress. "A gentlewoman's dress will always be simple and inconspicuous out of doors... White petticoats are quite unsuited to travel." The author's comment that let the skirts be as short as possible [for mountaineering] to clear the ankles shows that women were definitely becoming more adventurous, but the image above illustrates how hard, but exciting it must have been to be a lady traveller.

In an age long before Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, this book provided advice and encouragement to women to whom the world of travel [was] still a wide and unexplored region, and before whom its perils and its discomforts loom with a totally unnecessary dread.

What is your role in the library?

I deal with enquiries and the cataloguing of books and journals. One of the most common enquiries is about David Livingstone and the film The English Patient continues to spark a lot of interest about the Second World War and desert exploration. TV programmes like Shackleton and commemorations like the 50th anniversary of the ascent of Everest also leads to lots of curiosity.

Who uses the library?

The library is used by lots of different people for a variety of reasons; academic research, family history and general knowledge. We get asked all sorts of questions, one of the most recent was from a 13 year old who was doing a project on Antarctica, focusing on the Endurance expedition. Since we had to close for the building work, all of the enquiries have been through letters or email. Im looking forward to dealing with people again, once we open our new reading rooms to the public in June.