“Susan Clair Imbarrato has done yeoman service in her new book...taking the mission of social history—to illumine the lives of ordinary people and everyday life—mixing it with literary analysis, and making it her own..... In her hands, a simple story of pioneer men wrestling the west into submission is complicated and enriched by the women who traveled, both with men and on their own.”
Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly
“Each chapter bursts at the seams with examples of early women travelers who often were moving to new parts of the expanding Anglo-American territories.…As men typically have been imagined as the solo participants in these nationalistic endeavors, these women’s observations supply a necessary alternative vision of early American travel.”
Legacy: Journal of American Women Writers
“There is fresh detail in these pages so that even an experienced reader will find much that is useful in new research.”
“Traveling Women is a remarkable study that every historian of early American cultural, social, and women’s history should read.”
Women's travel narratives recording journeys north and south along the eastern seaboard and west onto the Ohio frontier enhance our historical understanding of early America. Drawing extensively from primary sources, Traveling Women documents women's roles in westward settlement and emphasizes travel as a culture-building event.
Susan Clair Imbarrato closely examines women's accounts of their journeys from 1700 to 1830, including Sarah Kemble Knight's well-known journal of her trip from Boston to New York in 1704 and many lesser-known accounts, such as Sarah Beavis's 1779 journal of her travel to Ohio via Kentucky and Susan Edwards Johnson's account or her 1801-2 journey from Connecticut to North Carolina.
In the women's keen observations and entertaining wit, readers will find bravado mixed with hesitation, as women set forth on business, to relocate, and for pleasure. These travelers wrote compellingly of crossing rivers and mountains, facing hunger, encountering native Americans, sleeping in taverns, and confronting slavery, expressing themselves in voices that differed in sensibility from male explorers and travelers.
These accounts, as Imbarrato shows, challenge assumptions that such travel was predominately a male enterprise. In addition, Traveling Women provides a more balanced portrait of westward settlement by affirming women's importance in the settling of early America.
Susan Clair Imbarrato is an associate professor of English at Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is the author of Declarations of Independency in Eighteenth-Century American Autobiography. More info →
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