Hi everyone! I received a very nice e-mail from Ann Grogan of Romantasy Corsets: She asked me to help let people know about a raffle she's holding to help raise money for a battered woman's shelter in San Francisco—the details are here on their home page: http://www.romantasyweb.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv Check it out and pass the word along; it's a good cause and you might win a corset!
In order that we can go on longer bike tours without risking damage to Gabriel's antique Singer, he recently ordered a Victory, a replica of the 19th-century Victor cycles. It arrived at his bike shop yesterday; here are some short little snippets of him mounting and dismounting in the parking lot. Enjoy!
With the holiday approaching again, here's a passage about our first Thanksgiving in our Victorian home excerpted from my upcoming book This Victorian Life (coming in 2015 from Skyhorse Publishing.) Enjoy!
"...The snowstorm and our our icy entrance into our new home took place on the day before Thanksgiving. As my husband and I snuggled together that first night in our nineteenth-century house, with the storm howling outside and our hopes spreading out in our dreaming minds like the fractal patterns on the parlor window, it was hard to imagine a more appropriate holiday to welcome us into our Victorian home. We were incredibly thankful for the blessing of this momentous step towards our dreams of exploring the nineteenth-century. Beyond this symbolism, there is a very real connection between the Victorian era and the origins of Thanksgiving as a national occasion.
Most modern Americans tend to associate the feast with the seventeenth-century and pilgrims, but the celebration of the holiday was limited to New England until well into the nineteenth-century. The concept of a festal celebration of thanks is an old one, but it took a Victorian lady to institutionalize it. Specifically, it took the editress of one of my favorite magazines: Sarah Josepha Hale, editress of Godey's Lady's Book.
Interestingly, Hale's conviction that we should have a national day of thanks played a part (although admittedly a small one) in landing her the job at Godey's. Hale began her writing career with a novel entitled Northwood; or, Life North and South: Showing the Character of Both, and her conviction about Thanksgiving enters into the book in a manner somewhat resembling a Socratic dialogue:
"Is Thanksgiving Day universally observed in America?" inquired Mr. Frankford.
"Not yet; but I trust it will become so. We have too few holidays. Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival, and observed by all our people."
"I see no particular reason for such an observance," remarked Frankford.
"I do," returned the Squire. "We want it as the exponent of our Republican institutions, which are based on the acknowledgement that God is our Lord, and that, as a nation, we derive our privileges and blessings from Him. You will hear this doctrine set forth in the sermon to-morrow."
"I thought you had no national religion."
"No established religion, you mean. Our people do not need compulsion to support the gospel. But to return to our Thanksgiving festival. When it shall be observed, on the same day, throughout all the states and territories, it will be a grand spectacle of moral power and human happiness, such as the world has never yet witnessed."
Northwood... was an instant success - which was lucky for Hale, since she wrote the book after her husband died and she suddenly found herself a single mother with children to support, including a brand-new baby. Less than a month after the book was published, Hale received a job offer for the editorship of a new, "Ladies' Magazine." She would move on from that project to Godey's, which became one of the most important periodicals in nineteenth-century America. It is now primarily remembered for its fashion plates and craft articles, but the magazine covered social issues as well.
Throughout her publishing career, Hale continued to champion her pet cause of turning Thanksgiving into a holiday which would be shared by all people, not just New England protestants: "...[C]ould not every Christian nation and every Jewish family in the world join us in this Thanksgiving, on the last Thursday in November?"
Hale took the case for Thanksgiving to the highest authority in America - all the way to President Lincoln. In a letter to Lincoln dated September 28, 1863, Hale directed her perpetual request to the country's Commander in Chief. Given that the Civil War was raging and September's 174 battles had resulted in 35,499 casualties (including Lincoln's own brother-in-law, Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helms, killed in the Battle of Chickamauga on September 21st) one might consider that the President of the divided United States had weightier matters on his mind than a holiday proposal by the editor of a domestic magazine. However, he clearly read Hale's letter and seemed to think her cause was a worthy one - or at least, that it was politically savvy. (Declaring a day of thanks is, after all, politically somewhat analogous to kissing babies: easy to do, and few people object.)
On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November would be a national Thanksgiving - exactly as Hale had proposed. Personally, the part of this story which I find the most impressive is its timing: President Lincoln's proclamation came less than one week after Hale had written her letter! Given the condition of the twenty-first-century postal system I have difficulty imagining a modern American president even receiving a physical letter in less than a week, let alone acting on it!
Lincoln's presidential proclamation (which was a one-time deal, for a Thanksgiving in 1863 alone) still wasn't enough for Hale. She requested another Thanksgiving the following year, and it was again granted by presidential decree. By this time the country was getting used to the idea, and on April 8, 1865, the citizens of New York sent President Lincoln a thirty-one page petition containing approximately eight-hundred and seventy signatures requesting a national day of Thanksgiving.
After Lincoln's assasination, later Presidents continued the tradition and appointed yearly Thankgivings at the end of every November. Still not satisfied (and by now slightly obsessed) Hale's magazine started urging that not just the President, but Congress as well should recognize her pet holiday. In 1874, when Hale was in her late 80's, an Editor's Table piece in Godey's pled for Congressional recognition of Thanksgiving, and was accompanied by a hymn to the holiday - written by its strongest advocate. Why, exactly, old Mrs. Hale felt such a driving need to keep fighting a battle which was already won is unclear. Perhaps she had just gotten used to fighting it. Unfortunately, she didn't live to see the Congressional chapter of Thanksgiving's story (which would finally take place in 1941.) However, she had certainly achieved her goal as far as the public was concerned. By the 1870's, Thanksgiving was such a part of America's subconscious that the book Thanksgiving: Memories of the Day... refers to the day as if its origins had been lost to the annals of time:
"The bare mention of the word, the Old Thanksgiving Day - what a power it has to revive the pleasant reminiscences, and recall the brightest scenes of other days in many hearts! It transports them to the homes of their childhood. It takes them at once into the presence of the father and mother who, it may be, for many years have been sleeping in the grave. It recalls their smiles of affectionate greeting, their tones of cheerful welcome; tones and smiles such as none but they could give. Every image of peace, contentment, competence, abundance and joy, comes back spontaneously on each return of the grateful festival."
The national holiday had become exactly what Mrs. Hale had envisioned, and what it remains to this day: a celebration of home and hearth, and the blessings for which we are grateful.
The construction on our house began in 1888 and finished in 1889. In the very months when builders were putting up the walls which would one day be our home, Good Housekeeping printed an article about a young couple entering their own new home on Thanksgiving. "Isn't it old-fashioned and home-like and dear?" The wife asks as they enter the long-empty building. "...Any house for a home to grow in would be a great deal to us, but this is so good! I can't make it real!"
"But it is," her husband tells her. "...Do you remember, dear, how a year ago, you tried to cheer me, one day when things were more deeply, darkly blue than common? You said there would be a way. Our home would come to us, or we to it, in time... if we but worked and waited and hoped meanwhile."
When I read the piece over a century later, the sentiments it expressed were so familiar to me that my heartstrings thrummed in recognition of its themes.
It's true that our entry to our new-old home was significantly more barren than the one in the story. In the Good Housekeeping piece the house in Old Hill Town is given as a present - furnishings, appliances and all - to the young couple by a rich judge and his wife. The benefactors had seen that the couple were good and deserving people, and, displaying the generosity common in Victorian fiction, wished to help them into a new situation. In our case, the absentee landlords who had previously owned the house had actually travelled from a different state to pry up and carry off items that had been nailed down less than a week before the paperwork transfering ownership cleared. This booty included the kitchen shelves - and even the mailbox!
Then again, the G.H. piece was fiction, after all. Real life has precious few of the generous benefactors who act as Deus ex machinas in stories. We had only ourselves, our wits, our hearts and nerves and sinews. We knew that in many ways it would be more complicated to reconstruct elements of the nineteenth-century, its culture and technology, than simply to live through it would have been. It wasn't just a matter of cutting things out, but of resurrecting technologies which had existed and finding the most appropriate equivalents to infrastructures which are now gone forever.
Life in any society is supported by the entire infrastructure of that particular civilization; many of the quotidian elements of the nineteenth-century have long since disappeared. There are no icemen or milkmen in twenty-first century Port Townsend, although they would have once been a familiar sight to virtually every home in America. The skilled artisans who could be relied on to produce and maintain life's necessities are now often equally endangered species. Supplies which would have once been available at the many stores in town have become extraordinarily challenging to find. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. We also knew that it would be a great and educational adventure, and that we would love every minute of it - even the frustrating parts."
 Hale, Sarah Josepha. Northwood; or, Life North and South: Showing the Character of Both. New York: 1852, p. 68.
 Hale, Mrs. Manners; Or, Happy Homes and Good Society All the Year Round. Boston: J.E. Tilton and Company. 1868, p. 6.
 "Battles and Casualties of the Civil War Map." <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/lifestyle/special/civil-war-interactive/civil-war-battles-and-casualties-interactive-map/>
 "Civil War Timeline / Chronology for 1863." <http://blueandgraytrail.com/year/186309>
 Baker, Peggy M. "The Godmother of Thanksgiving: The Story of Sarah Josepha Hale." <http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Godmother_of_Thanksgiving.pdf>
The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. New York Citizens to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, April 08, 1865 (Petition requesting day of thanksgiving) <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mal&fileName=mal1/415/4159500/malpage.db&recNum=0>
 Editor's Table. "Our National Thanksgiving Day." Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine. Volume LXXXIX. No. 533. Philadelphia: November, 1874, p. 471.
 Baker, ibid.
 Adams, William. Thanksgiving: Memories of the Day: Helps to the Habit. New York: 1873, pp. 4-5.
 Dana, Olive E. "Thanksgiving For Two." Good Housekeeping. November 24, 1888. p. 32.
This passage was excerpted from This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Living - coming in 2015 from Skyhorse Publishing!
To help you celebrate this spooky holiday, here is a link to an online collection of 19th-century ghost stories:
And if you want a few more shivers, here's a link to readings of stories by the master of nineteenth-century horror stories in America, Edgar Allan Poe:
Enjoy - and happy Hallowe'en!
Good morning everyone!
The follow up book to Victorian Secrets has a new title: This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Living. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
"...Collection maintenance (what to keep versus what to throw away) is an issue which has been with the human race since the first nomadic hunter-gatherers decamped. Our species probably didn't even have proper language yet, but if we did it's tempting to imagine the conversation between Caveman Ug and his mate Ughina:
Ug: No need stick!
Ughina: Is best stick hold meat fire! Good stick - never find stick so good again! No need rock!
Ug: Is best rock break bones! No other man have rock so good!
And so on...
I'm sure that when the End of Days comes, the final heroes will be hmm'ing and haw'ing over what to bring to Valhalla.
Gabriel likes to point out that professional archivists don't get paid to save things: archivists get paid to throw things away. When a collection (whether it's a museum library, corporation, or a vast private collection such as the legacies of Paul Allen) hires a professional archivist, the whole point of the operation is to put the the decisions about what to throw away in capable hands.
Households have archivists too, although they may not recognize themselves as such - and they probably don't get paid for maintaining their family's private collection of materials. It is nonetheless a vital role in the workings of any home. Otherwise we would all spend our days blundering through endless heaps of garbage and never be able to locate our necessary items among the trash.
Due to a convergence of a rising middle class and the increasing availability of cheap, mass-market products, Victorians of the late nineteenth-century saw themselves facing unprecedented challenges regarding what to keep and what to eliminate from their domestic lives. Because these decisions revolved around the household, they were solidly in the sphere - and therefore the control - of the feminine half of society. Middle-class women's magazines of the 1880's and '90's go back and forth on the issue in a way that seems poignantly familiar to modern people facing the same challenges (now on an even vaster scale thanks to quotidian objects becoming even cheaper and more disposable.)
Clearly, to make sense of things some sort of system is necessary. Victorian philosopher William Morris said, ""Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." The implication is that it is best for them to posess both these virtues together.
We are ephemeral creatures with but a short time upon this earth; the decision to fill our days with ugliness or beauty rests in our own hands whenever we take something into our lives. We must have objects of use to meet our daily needs; why not choose examples which delight our senses at the same time? The Victorians believed very strongly that beauty inspires goodness. Teachers were urged to fill their classrooms with beautiful items to "inspire the holiest, loftiest and noblest ambition... the aquarium, the trailing vine, the blossom and the specimens of natural history should adorn the teacher's desk and the windows, while handsome pictures should embellish the walls... [T]he pupils should be surrounded with such an array of beauty as will constantly inspire them to higher and nobler achievements." All people were advised, "The love of the beautiful ever leads to the higher, the grander, the better. Guided by its impulses, we pass out of the hut into the larger and better house; into the charming and elegantly-adorned mansion. Actuated by its influence, we convert the lumbering railway carriage into a palace-car, the swamp into a garden, and the desolate place into a park, in which we wander amid the trees, the streams of limpid water, and the fragrance of beautiful flowers."
Gabriel and I love our antique artifacts because they were crafted in a time when beauty and its elevating effects were still appreciated. We enjoy incorporating as many elements of the beautiful into our lives as possible because, like the people who made them, we too feel that they uplift the spirit and inspire those who are surrounded by them to ever better ideals.
Giving away as many reminders of modernity as we could possibly part with had felt extremely liberating. Replacing them with more Victorian counterparts, however, was often a bit challenging..."
 Morris, William, Hopes and fears for art, five lectures delivered in Birmingham, London and Nottingham, 1878-1881. London: Ellis & White, 1882, p. 108.
 Hill, ibid. pp. 173, 176.
It's so very exciting to be working on two different books at once! It keeps me busy, but incredibly happy because I'm doing the things I love best: writing, and educating people about the Victorian era.
I saw this morning that my etiquette guide, True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen is up on the Skyhorse website! This is a volume of advice which I compiled and transcribed from our antique (19th-century) books. The thing I love most about working with primary source material is how strikingly relevant it remains to present-day life. I consider it a great honor to be able to bring these timeless words of wisdom to a greater audience.
Here's a sneak peek:
"Advice on Writing Love Letters, Answering Personal Ads, Courtship, and Marriage...
An Advertisement in a Morning Paper
PERSONAL - Will the lady who rode up Broadway last Thursday afternoon, about two o'clock, in an omnibus, getting out at Stewart's, accompanied by a little girl dressed in blue suit, please send her address to D.B.M., Herald office?
It is useless to advise people never to reply to a personal advertisement like the above. To do so is like totally refusing young people the privilege of dancing. People will dance, and they will answer personal advertisements. The best course, therefore, is to properly direct the dancers, and caution the writers in their answers to newspaper personals. If the eye of the young lady referred to meets the above advertisement, she will possibly be indignant at first, and will, perhaps, resolve to pay no attention to it. It will continue to occupy her attention so much, however, and curiosity will become so great, that, in order to ease her mind, she will at last give her address; in which case she makes a very serious mistake, as any lady replying to a communication of such character, giving her name and residence to a stranger, places herself at great disadvantage. Should her communication never be answered, she will feel mortified ever afterwards that she committed the indiscretion of replying to the advertisement at all; and, should the person she addresses prove to be some worthless fellow who may presume to press an acquaintance upon the strength of her reply, it may cause her very serious perplexity and embarrassment. It is clearly evident, therefore, that she should not give her name and address as requested; and yet, as the advertisement may refer to a business matter of importance, or bring about an acquaintance which she will not regret, she may relieve her curiosity on the subject by writing the following note in reply..."
It's official: There will be a follow up book to Victorian Secrets! I just signed the contract with Skyhorse today. The release date is still to be determined, but to whet your appetite here's an overview - and a sneak preview!
The Past That Touches Us (tentative title)
There is a disturbing tendency in modern America to view all the technologies which structure people's lives as both absolutely new and completely indispensible for survival. A common belief (nurtured by vast advertising industries) holds that the newest, most fashionable accessories (from hybrid cars to smartphones) are, simply by virtue of their newness, necessarily superior to all their predessessors. The idea is widespread that the only reason to forego these things things is to abstain from a single example for a finite period as a sort of Lenten exercise in self-denial - to be followed by a massive prize, or at the very least smug self-congratulation. These beliefs breed an attitude that anyone with the tragic misfortune to have been born before such things were invented must have wept out their miserable existence in a constant state of yearning and hardship. This is a very "presentist" attitude - as prejudiced in its way as a bigot who assumes that someone of a different skin color or sexual orientation from himself must neccessarily long for the perfection he perceives in himself.
To truly understand the past, people need to challenge these assumptions and expand their avowed modern tolerance of diversity to encompass historical viewpoints. To comprehend history, it must be viewed as simply a different culture - different from modern America, but representing as many diverse thoughts and opinions as our modern nation claims as a source of pride.
What if a married couple chose to explore the philosophies and technologies of the nineteenth-century - not as a paid stunt bankrolled by Hollywood in order to cast aspersions on the past - but rather as a lifestyle choice, because it is truly the way they wish to live?
The Past That Touches Us explores these themes. My husband and I became deeply fascinated by the way the objects which fill people's daily lives affect them when we started collecting antique clothing and I adopted a Victorian-style corset as an everyday foundation garment (experiences described in my first book, Victorian Secrets.) Our fascination grew beyond garments though, and we wanted to learn what other artifacts and technologies of the past had to teach us. To further this end, we moved to a 19th-century house (built in 1888) in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, Washington. From the very start of our life here we began outfitting our home with as many usable period-appropriate artifacts as possible. This ongoing labor of love involves many challenges and adventures - but equally as many rewards.
In our (so far) four years of incorporating ever more Victorian culture into our own lifestyle, we have laughed over failed cooking experiments (and drooled over successful ones), faced hostility from strangers as well as loving support from friends, and discovered that there is a deeper significance to the changing illumination of passing seasons than a world lit only by electric light had ever prepared us for. I took delight in discovering "new" beauty techniques which my grandmother would have considered old-fashioned, while my husband adopted the workout routine of a Victorian heart-throb. Our experiences are not limited to the confines of our home - or even our Victorian town: we accomplished a 130-mile bicycle ride together with my husband riding an antique 1887 highwheel bicycle.
Throughout all of our adventures, several consistent themes have constantly reiterated themselves throughout all our research and explorations. The first is that certain universal constants hold true for all people regardless of time or place. No matter who, when, or where we are, humans share similar passions and fears, joys and triumphs. The second theme which constantly repeats itself is that many of the elements making up the modern world are far older than people realize them to be.
Part memoir, part micro-history, The Past That Touches Us is an exploration of the present through the lens of the past, and an analysis of how the warp and weft of these two times weave the fiber of the world in which we all live.
A sneak preview into The Past That Touches Us:
"...After several years in Port Townsend most people of the small town knew me, but once in a while new residents move here with interesting results. In our fourth year of residence here, I was given occasion to remember the early ghost story and wonder how many superstitious people there might be in the general population.
A new couple had moved to the general neighborhood, accompanied by their two dogs. Exactly where this foursome had taken up residence I had no interest in knowing, but it must have been within a short walking distance of my home because they started (ahem) pausing by my yard on a regular basis. I can forgive the dogs for pausing. All biological creatures are subject to natural functions. However, I was irritated by the owners' complete nonchalence as they watched the action being performed on someone else's property - and their total lack of any scoop or bag.
Some people like dogs and others don't, but I have never yet met a person who relishes finding the discarded digestions of someone else's dog directly in the middle of their walkway. I'm sure even the most avid dog-lover will understand my irritation after three weeks of this daily performance. When they came back and stopped in front of my house and the overture began again, I contemplated an appropriate way to bring it to a close.
My first impulse - which was to rush out the door, start screaming and possibly throw something - seemed a bit heavy-handed, and possibly wanting in dignity. I decided an escalading approach was more sensible. First I would stand very visibly in my window, making it very clear to the owners that they were watched. Any half-way decent person would slink away, ashamed of themselves.
If they weren't even half-way decent and persisted in behaving badly in front of a witness, I decided I would tap on the glass, point at the defecating dogs, and shake my finger a very stern, "No!" If even this proved insufficient, I would open my front door and take one step outside, glaring at them. (The dogs might take this as enough of a hint, even if the humans didn't.) I saved screaming and throwing things as an option of last resort.
As it turned out, the very first step in this escalating chain proved far more effective than I had imagined it would be.
I saw the overture commencing: The owners pulling the dogs across the street and pointing at my front walkway. At their masters' command, one dog squatted and the other lifted its leg.
I was wearing my pure white summer dress so I knew I was visible, but to make extra certain I would be seen I waited until one of the owners happened to glance upwards. Then I stepped into the alcove of my bayview window, right up against the glass, glaring downwards with the strongest expression of disapproval I could manage.
Just as I had hoped, the man's eye was caught by my movement and he saw me. I expected him to look embarassed and make an awkward retreat. His actual behavior, though, proved far more amusing - in fact, it was almost worth my irritation at the dogs' digestive fluids.
The man's eyes grew wide as saucers, and all the blood completely drained from his face. I saw his mouth shape a word. It took a moment for my mind to interpret it, by which time he had already grabbed the arm of his woman companion and started running, dragging both her and the dogs with him.
They were halfway down the block by the time I deciphered the shape I had seen his mouth form. When I did, I looked down at my 1870's-style dress (copied from an antique in our collection), and at the 1888 bay window framing me. Then I laughed out loud.
The word the man had spoken as all color drained from his face and before he started running, had been "Ghost."
They never came back..."
Good morning, everyone!
Next spring Skyhorse will be publishing a Victorian etiquette book I've compiled from antique sources. With summer currently on us and many people traveling, I thought some of you would enjoy a sneak peak into a portion of the section on traveling etiquette. Happy reading! -S.C.
The Art of Travel
By Elizabeth Bisland
Originally appearing in The Woman's Book Volume I. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1894. pages 371-400.
This passage will be reprinted as a chapter in a Victorian etiquette guide appearing from Skyhorse Publishing next Spring - stay tuned!
There is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, and the difference between the right way and the wrong way in travel is the whole space which lies between pleasure and disappointment. The proper method of travel is an art which may be learned perhaps only by personal experience, and some one else's person experience is, on the whole, the cheaper sort. One personal experience can be summed up in a pair of phrases, which, rightly used, have the value of those magic amulets benignant witches present to young heroes when starting out to see the world, and which, applied to all difficulties, at once solved or removed them.
The first of these potential phrases is, "When in doubt use common-sense." The second grows naturally out of it: "Do in Rome as do the Romans." In these two sayings lies the whole art of agreeable travelling...
So much of the pleasure of travel depends upon the physical condition of the traveller that such a paper as this had best begin with a few suggestions under the head of "Preparations." It is a difficult prescription to follow, but a good one, that one should begin a journey fresh and unfatigued. Packing should be well in hand twenty-four hours previous to setting out, and, under ordinary circumstances, a little forethought will obviate that furious hurry and scurry at the last moment which leaves the nerves tingling with excitement.
The question of luggage is to be governed, of course, by such considerations as length of absence, the season, and one's destination. My own opinion and experience is that a woman can travel comfortably to any distance, and to any climate, with one trunk, a dressing-bag, and a shawl-strap. Very recently a great advance has been made in the manner of trunks, and already one begins to look back on one's contentment with the bungling old boxes full of trays as a piece of phenomenal ignorance. This new box has a hinged top, which, being lifted, exposes a series of drawers both large and small, so that instead of struggling with the refractory trays and breaking one's back in search of some object that has, in a spirit of wantonness, descended into the depths at the instant when most needed, one whips out the shallow drawers and in a twinkling can pounce upon the most elusive and wily of one's possessions. The newest dressing-bag also is a great improvement over any previous efforts in this line; the fittings being wrought of weightless celluloid, made in an excellent imitation of tortoise-shell or amber, replacing the heavy glass and silver which made a dressing-case a burden to be avoided at any cost. Now that the objection of weight is removed, the dressing-bag, with its compact toilet appliances, is quite indispensible to comfort in travel. These dressing-cases are somewhat more costly than the ordinary bag, but they are usually of good material and therefore wear well, and the saving in time, and the comfort of knowing one's belongings are tidy and ready to hand, is worth the extra cost ten times over. Heretofore, because of being obliged to carry all one's own hand-baggage in this country, the dressing-case has not been popular with us; but this difficulty of weight removed, no wise or skilled traveller will be without so great an addition to her convenience.
A medium-sized bag, convenient for a woman's handling, will have space as well for a night-dress, a pair of soft, heelless dressing-slippers, and a light dressing-gown - China silk in summer time, or soft wool for winter. A gray Chudda shawl of large size can be cut into such a dressing-gown, and is so soft and compressible that it occupies but little space.
The shawl-strap should contain an ulster, travelling-rug, overshoes, and umbrella. Another matter to be considered in preparing for comfort in travel is the possession of a definite place for everything, so that everything may be found in its place the instant it is wanted. Therefore cases for handkerchiefs, gloves and veils, bags for shoes and for soiled linen, should all be provided, and every article being carefully laid away in its proper receptacle after using, not only insures against losses that cannot be repaired at critical moments, and frantic searches for strayed belongings, but keeps one's boxes and clothes dainty and fresh.
By natural sequence the next point to be considered is that of toilets. There is no need, in addressing American women, to inveigh against frowsy unkemptness in travelling - their tendency as a rule is toward "over-smartness;" but where a question of the quantity and weight of luggage is to be dealt with, it may be worth while to plan how an immaculate appearance and comfort are to be maintained out of trunks of small compass...
The many women who wear silk or wool tricot undergarments find them easily carried in small compass. Those who do not like this form of dress will discover that for long journeys there is nothing so satisfactory for underwear as silk. The original cost is rather large, but it proves an economy in the end, as clothes of the soft India (not China) silk are so easily laundered - requiring no starch - shed, instead of gathering, dust; do not conduct changes of temperature; and, keeping the body at an even temperature, are the greatest safeguards against colds. Nothing can be a greater luxury, in sea-sickness, or after a hot day in the cars, than to slip for the night into a silky garment which neither heats nor chills the skin, nor retains the dust and wrinkles of a previous wearing, as would cambric or linen.
The ideal travelling gown is undoubtedly a very plain tailor skirt and coat of some neutral-tinted serge or tweed, with a silk bodice, as it can stand the stress of weather, of sea-damps, and railway dust, is easy of fit, and can be adapted to the tropics by removing the coat, or adjusted to the arctic zone by the addition of furs. A simple and satisfactory adjunct is a black silk dress with two bodices - one adapted for evening...
Most of the travelling done within our borders is, of necessity, on the railway, and despite our persistent self-glorification in this very matter, we have - in many things - much to learn from Europe. The Continental wagonslits, and the English sleeping-cars are in several respects improvements upon our own. For one thing they avoid that promiscuity which so greatly shocks the foreigner travelling in America. In Germany one may secure a first-class carriage for one's self at an expense no greater than that of a whole section in a sleeping-car, and attached to this is a private dressing-room with all conveniences. Here one is secluded as in one's own bedroom, and instead of futile wrestlings in the curtained pigeon-hole provided in American cars, one dresses and undresses at one's ease, with plenty of space and no possibility of intrusion. All the through-trains leaving Paris for Constantinople, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, and Nice are provided with wagon-lits, cars which have a narrow passage-way upon one side, upon which opens a series of small bedrooms, securing privacy for many that American cars only offer to the one party rich enough or lucky enough to secure the single "state-room" at the end of the sleeper.
While few of the Continental trains have a dining-car attached, those without one are provided with a small kitchen at the end of the wagon-lit, where the guard concocts pleasant little meals, largely of fruit, salads, cheese, and good crusty loaves, and serves them in each room upon movable tables.
The trains de luxe between Calais and Paris, between London and Edinburgh, have beautiful dining arrangements, and the saloon carriages are spacious and luxurious beyond any comparison with the best we have to offer. Another point deserving mention in the European trains is the studied simplicity of the decorations. Smooth, handsome blue broadcloth takes the place of stuffy plush, and the tempest of gilded ornamentations is conspicuous by its delightful absence.
In making long trips in England or on the Continent it is well that the woman travelling alone should go to the expense of taking first-class tickets to secure the advantages of the added luxury and privacy; but for all journeys of moderate length - and very few are as long as twelve hours - second class is quite good enough and a great deal cheaper. For journeys of an hour or two many English people go third class, since the carriages in this class are perfectly clean and fairly comfortable, and one is not likely to suffer any inconvenience from the manners of one's fellow travellers, which are almost without exception quiet and decent. On the Continent a woman unaccompanied had better content herself with the economy of second class, as her experiences might not be agreeable in the third.
Wherever one may be fated to spend any length of time in land travel it is best to follow certain rules. One of these is to be sure of plenty of fresh air. In our own country this is sometimes made difficult by the over-heating of cars, the double windows, and the lack of proper ventilation; while in Europe the loosely fitting sashes and lack of artificial warmth gives one at times too much even of that good thing. An excellent practice is to get out wherever a stop of more than a few minutes is made and walk briskly, filling the lungs and stirring the blood. In almost all cases where a traveller finds herself unable to sleep in the cars the difficulty may be corrected by a supply of fresh air.
A good plan is to undress entirely, as at home, slipping over the night-gown the loose silk or wool dressing-gown, thus protecting oneself against danger of colds, and being prepared in case of accident...
It cannot be too much urged upon the traveller by land or by water, in temperate or tropic zone, that there should be no chance for exercise neglected. The change of air induces, as a rule, a more vigorous appetite, and the enforced sluggishness of long days on board vessel and car makes it difficult for the digestion to cope with its added task, the result being disorders which are apt to rob one of all pleasure and predispose one to colds and infection.
These suggestions apply to the case of the woman journeying under the escort of what is known as her natural protector, and treat principally of her physical comfort and well-being; but for the woman who sets forth into the world alone there are many matters still to be considered.
To the indolent, the timid, and the inexperienced among women there is something extremely terrifying in the thought of lonely wanderings, unaccompanied by some man to save trouble and bear the blame of mishaps; but there is, in reality, nothing to prevent a woman from seeing every civilized, and even semi-civilized, country in the world without other protection than her own modesty and good sense. There is a vast amount of chivalry and tenderness distributed in the hearts of men, and while the woman who goes guarded may be quite unaware of it, because nothing in her case calls it forth, the chivalry is there, and ready for almost unlimited draughts upon its patience, devotion, and sympathy. In all accidents by land or water the first thought of those in authority is the safety of the women, and while all yet goes smoothly the very defencelessness of a lonely woman appears to put every man upon his honor, and make him feel, in a certain sense, responsible for her comfort and enjoyment. That women travelling alone have at times painful experiences cannot be denied, but I boldly assert that in nine cases out of ten it is due wholly and solely to their own fault. A few have been so warned against the wiles of a wicked world that they are unable to discriminate between an honest desire to be of use and mere vulgar effrontery, and reward courteous attentions with suspicious rudeness. A still greater number look upon their own needs and discomforts as matters of cosmical importance, before which the affairs of the universe - notably the masculine half- should give way; and their petulance, peevishness, and aggressive assumptions drive even the meekest of their fellow-travellers into open revolt. Still another cause of difficulty is an embarassed timidity in cases where instant repression is needed; and a lack of courageous dignity in the face of insolence.
The woman who is cool-headed, courteous, and self-reliant, can travel around the world in every direction and find no word or look to daunt or distress her. Indeed if her manners be sweetly gracious and dignified she will find all lands full of brave cavaliers who will spring to gratify her smallest request, who will see and meet her needs before they are put into words, and who cheerfully will imperil and even yield up their lives in her defense and to insure her safety...
A cool and nimble wit is generally the best defence against vulgar aggression, and achieves its end more neatly than would angry protest.
A very young girl was once making a long railway journey alone, and to amuse her solitude dabbled a little in an attempt at literature. She was aware that a man in the opposite section of the sleeping-car was endeavoring to attract her attention, but she kept her head bent over her manuscript and gave no sign of being aware of his existence. Finally, all his efforts failing, he crossed the aisle between them and laid his visiting card on the adjustable table before her.
"That's my name, miss," he said, and added, with insinuating familiarity, "I guess we're two of a kind."
The girl regarded the card distantly, and raising her eyes to his face, coolly contemplated it during several minutes of silence.
"Really!" she replied at last, "you flatter me. In what respect may I hope to resemble you?"
"Oh," stammered the small cad, getting red and embarrassed beneath her calm gaze, "you seem to be a writer, and I am one myself; I'm a reporter. Guess we're a pair of Bohemians, aint we?"
"You mean that?" she answered politely, glancing at the thirty or forty pages of manuscript she had covered. "I fear it has misled you. That is a letter to my husband. Good morning!" And she quietly dotted an i, and went on with her work. The car heard her and understood, and the car smiled satirically at the unmatched Bohemian, who sneaked away to the smoker and was seen no more by daylight in his seat.
Impertinence is not the only matter with which the solitary woman must deal; she must be alert, accurate, and quick-witted, and while she is sure to find assistance she must act as if she did not count upon it, and take all possible precautions for herself...
There is much diversity of opinion and experience in the matter of guides and couriers, but a good rule seems to be that in countries where one understands the language they are unnecessary, while in localities where the language is absolutely unknown, one is apt to miss many pleasures for lack of an interpreter. In England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the routes are so well known and so constantly travelled, that an energetic, enterprising traveller can see all that is to be seen without aid; but in Norway and Sweden, Russia, Holland, and Turkey, in Egypt, and in Japan, where the languages are so difficult that even the few phrases needed by the traveller are more troublesome to acquire than the result is worth, a guide and interpreter are quite necessary. In India English is so generally spoken that an American woman does not find herself at a disadvantage.
It is the gentleman who sits at the receipt of custom who fills with vague alarm many a gentle female soul, but experience usually robs him of all terrors. Strangely enough, England, which is supposed to be entirely free from any protective measures, is a most troublesome port to enter. Brandy, cologne, silver plate, tobacco and the Tauchnitz novels are not permitted to enter the tight little island, and it is generally some well-behaved, eminently conventional matron who is most sharply questioned as to the presence of tobacco and brandy in her trunks, and has her stockings, underlinen, and bonnets tossed madly about in the search for contraband means of distribution. On the Continent more discrimination is shown, and for the most part the officers of the douane discern at a glance whether one is likely to have diamonds concealed in one's boot-heels, or owes the rich contours of one's figure to tightly rolled consignments of lace. The slightest reluctance to have one's belongings searched, however, at once arouses suspicion, and only the cheerful and prompt handing over of keys achieves the much-to-be-desired mere lifting and closing of the lid. My own experience leads me to believe that the most courteous and kindly of customs officials are those in the Port of New York - and that even under the McKinley tariff regulations; but memory preserves in the amber of gratitude one gentle-hearted Gaul, who, looking into the weary eyes of a lonely woman newly arrived in Paris at eight o'clock in the evening, was moved to real compassion and chalked with his mystic sign four large boxes without word or question...
All directions and suggestions to travellers must of necessity be vague and general; each voyage, like each life, is individual and unique; but common sense and good temper alike each are the two safest guides and most agreeable traveling companions.
 A cheap, roughly-woven item used as a blanket.
 Imported lace was taxed highly in the late nineteenth-century, and therefore a popular item for smuggling. One popular method among women smugglers was to wrap many yards of lace around their legs underneath their skirts. Some of the earliest women customs officials in New York were matrons employed to take suspected woman smugglers aside and check under their skirts for contraband.
My friend Estar Hyo-Gyung Choi, who is a very accomplished photographer, recently took some photos around Port Townsend. Enjoy! (If you'd like to see more of Estar's photographs, check out the Mary Studio website: http://www.mary-studio.com.)
Estar will be moving back to Korea later this month: I sure will miss her!
My friend Estar Hyo-Gyung Choi, who is a very accomplished photographer, recently took some photos around Port Townsend - some of the two of us together, some just of me. Enjoy! (If you'd like to see more of Estar's photographs, check out the Mary Studio website: http://www.mary-studio.com.)