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Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers

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Real ladies do not travel--or so it was once said. This collection of women's travel writing dispels that notion by showing how there are few corners of the world that have not been visited by women travelers. There are also few difficulties, physical or emotional, real or imagined, that have not been met and overcome by these women. Life is never dull for Jane Robinson's Real ladies do not travel--or so it was once said. This collection of women's travel writing dispels that notion by showing how there are few corners of the world that have not been visited by women travelers. There are also few difficulties, physical or emotional, real or imagined, that have not been met and overcome by these women. Life is never dull for Jane Robinson's intrepid women. From an encounter with a snake in the Amazon jungle to shipwreck and kidnap on the Barbary Coast, this book includes tales of derring-do and great danger. It also tells tales of unimaginable hardship, including caring for a family in an ammunition cart during the siege of Delhi and a journey through Tibet that leaves its author childless and widowed. There is no such thing as a typical woman traveler--and there never has been--as this exhilarating anthology shows on a journey of its own through sixteen centuries of travel writing. So get ready for adventure and excitement with some of the most extraordinary characters you are ever likely to meet


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Real ladies do not travel--or so it was once said. This collection of women's travel writing dispels that notion by showing how there are few corners of the world that have not been visited by women travelers. There are also few difficulties, physical or emotional, real or imagined, that have not been met and overcome by these women. Life is never dull for Jane Robinson's Real ladies do not travel--or so it was once said. This collection of women's travel writing dispels that notion by showing how there are few corners of the world that have not been visited by women travelers. There are also few difficulties, physical or emotional, real or imagined, that have not been met and overcome by these women. Life is never dull for Jane Robinson's intrepid women. From an encounter with a snake in the Amazon jungle to shipwreck and kidnap on the Barbary Coast, this book includes tales of derring-do and great danger. It also tells tales of unimaginable hardship, including caring for a family in an ammunition cart during the siege of Delhi and a journey through Tibet that leaves its author childless and widowed. There is no such thing as a typical woman traveler--and there never has been--as this exhilarating anthology shows on a journey of its own through sixteen centuries of travel writing. So get ready for adventure and excitement with some of the most extraordinary characters you are ever likely to meet

30 review for Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I really enjoyed this, even though at times it got a little bit tedious. The nice thing about that is that this book is extremely easy to pick up and put down, and to read simultaneously with something else, which is exactly what I did. This book is essentially a collection of letters and journal entries written by women travelers. On the face of it that might not seem like any big thing, but this book is not focusing on you and me and our moms and aunts -- this is looking way back into the past I really enjoyed this, even though at times it got a little bit tedious. The nice thing about that is that this book is extremely easy to pick up and put down, and to read simultaneously with something else, which is exactly what I did. This book is essentially a collection of letters and journal entries written by women travelers. On the face of it that might not seem like any big thing, but this book is not focusing on you and me and our moms and aunts -- this is looking way back into the past, to Victorian era women and even before. These women were frequently striking out to places that no woman had been before, and that even no person had been to before in some cases. While that's not really a focus of the book, it was still incredibly interesting to read about how these women went to great lengths to do the traveling they wanted to do. Sometimes just the plain difficulty of getting around was amazing, and it was also wonderful to read about the interactions these women had withe the people they encountered. The women run the gamut from those who unwillingly went along with their husbands (missionaries or ambassadors) to those who took of because they wanted to and had the money, to those who took off the better to support themselves as nannies. The ease of reading comes in with the setup of the book - the chapters are based on regions of the world, and then of course within that you have the various letters and journal entries. So not only is it easy to pick up and put down, but it's easy to dip in and out and just read snippets here and there. If this sounds at all interesting, I definitely recommend it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    This is a themed selection of excerpts, arranged geographically, all by women travellers. Other than an introduction, then a 'Setting Out' chapter, and a final 'Coming Home' chapter, the excerpts are arranged by the place they occur - sort of by continent, but Europe is split up much further. The source material is great - all those incredible women travellers of high achievement (only picking a few of my favourites) such as: Ella Maillart, Ethel Manin, Freya Stark, Isabella Bird and including so This is a themed selection of excerpts, arranged geographically, all by women travellers. Other than an introduction, then a 'Setting Out' chapter, and a final 'Coming Home' chapter, the excerpts are arranged by the place they occur - sort of by continent, but Europe is split up much further. The source material is great - all those incredible women travellers of high achievement (only picking a few of my favourites) such as: Ella Maillart, Ethel Manin, Freya Stark, Isabella Bird and including some of the more modern women travellers - Robyn Davidson, Christina Dodwell, Marika Hanbury-Tenison, Dervla Murphy & Betina Selby. There are many, many others. I have to say the format of this book didn't engage with me. Although proposed by the author as a dip-in type book, it isn't in my nature to read that way. Reading it cover to cover, I found it hard to get the continuity with the short excerpts, and this effected my rating. Where I probably benefited more from this book is the list of source material - where I have added a few books to my list 'to source'. Still a solid 3 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    A fascinating look at women unafraid to roam the earth. Many powered through circumstances that would have left me crying by the side of the trail. I was sitting down to a nice lunch in my cosy home, when I read the story of a woman trying to save her cabin from flames. Her little girl's feet froze in the snow, as she tried to help her mother save their possessions. I put the book aside, and concentrated on my good fortune. My appreciation for my comfortable life was increased, as was my wish to A fascinating look at women unafraid to roam the earth. Many powered through circumstances that would have left me crying by the side of the trail. I was sitting down to a nice lunch in my cosy home, when I read the story of a woman trying to save her cabin from flames. Her little girl's feet froze in the snow, as she tried to help her mother save their possessions. I put the book aside, and concentrated on my good fortune. My appreciation for my comfortable life was increased, as was my wish to have an adventure.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Diamond

    This is quite a collection! Excerpts from 55 women writers spanning 300 years of travel all over the world. Organized by continent/region, the excerpts in each section often involve culture clash and the clash of writers from different centuries but the book as a whole is quite interesting. So much is covered that it takes some time to read it all. I appreciated many aspects such as: Sarah Hobson traveling in male clothes in Persia is discovered by a man who reveals what disclosed her femininity This is quite a collection! Excerpts from 55 women writers spanning 300 years of travel all over the world. Organized by continent/region, the excerpts in each section often involve culture clash and the clash of writers from different centuries but the book as a whole is quite interesting. So much is covered that it takes some time to read it all. I appreciated many aspects such as: Sarah Hobson traveling in male clothes in Persia is discovered by a man who reveals what disclosed her femininity ("Men seldom laugh silently, moving their shoulders up and down like you do, rather they laugh boisterously. Also you use your hands in too feminine a way. 'And what were my other mistakes?' "It's good to cast down your eyes, or to open them wide in surprise, but men rarely do that"), Flora Steele and Grace Gardiner in India in 1890 lists remedies for common illnesses on the road, Dervla Murphy in India in 1976 discusses her efforts to do amateur surgery on a traveling companion who injured her foot, Ethel Mannin in 1936 Russia describes the difficulty of finding a place to sleep, Emily Innes in 1885 Malaysia hears a rampage in her hotel and hides under the bed only later learning that all the others have been murdered, Susanna Moodie in 1850's Wild West U.S.A. has her house burn down while she tries to rescue what she can in the freezing snow, Fanny Kemble in 1860's Southern U.S.A. finds out in horror that her new husband owns slaves, Fanny Stenhouse in 1880's Utah finds out in horror that her new Mormon husband intends to marry other wives, Violet Cressy-Marcks traveling the Amazon River in 1932 realizes that her guide paddling the canoe has become delirious and sick and he ends up committing suicide, Annie Peck, a mountaineer seeking the summit in 1911 gets angry when her guide gets there first, Rosie Swale finds a pregnant woman in the middle of the jungle near Cape Horn and helps her give birth, after having her own life-threatening illness on a boat. There are many other fascinating stories in this book. It's truly armchair travel.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alina Cristea

    A very entertaining read that combines two of my passions, reading and traveling. Full of interesting, surprising and sometimes funny details, this book is a thorough account of women's travels around the world since the 18th century. I am glad so many of them decided to write about it. Some of them traveled because they wanted to, others because they had to. Either way, I think we owe these pioneer ladies something for their courage. This book reminds us once again that we should not take thing A very entertaining read that combines two of my passions, reading and traveling. Full of interesting, surprising and sometimes funny details, this book is a thorough account of women's travels around the world since the 18th century. I am glad so many of them decided to write about it. Some of them traveled because they wanted to, others because they had to. Either way, I think we owe these pioneer ladies something for their courage. This book reminds us once again that we should not take things for granted.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    “I envy the easy peace of mind of a ruddy milkmaid, who, undisturbed by doubt, hears the sermon, with humility, every Sunday, not having confounded the sentiments of natural duty in her head by the vain-enquiries of the schoools, who may be more learned, yet, after all, must remain as ignorant.” — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "Letters ... Written, during her Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa" “Everything seems unreal or unnecessary, everything is dressed up. / All these people moving about, sitti “I envy the easy peace of mind of a ruddy milkmaid, who, undisturbed by doubt, hears the sermon, with humility, every Sunday, not having confounded the sentiments of natural duty in her head by the vain-enquiries of the schoools, who may be more learned, yet, after all, must remain as ignorant.” — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "Letters ... Written, during her Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa" “Everything seems unreal or unnecessary, everything is dressed up. / All these people moving about, sitting still, in a hurry, catching trains, eating long dinners, dressing themselves, looking at each other dressed — what does it all mean? Was all this going on when we were in that other world which we have just left, that great silent world where everything was itself and big, and not confused by accessories? Was all this din and bustle going on? It is strange that we should have had no inkling of it, for it seems of so much importance to all these people, idle with a great restlessness; it seems essential to them.” — Louisa Jebb, "By Desert Ways to Baghdad"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    A great collection of English travel writing from various women authors from mediaeval times to the present, just sadly lacking in editorial nerve. I will say that Robinson does demonstrate a real passion for her subject and there are moments of real warmth and wit scattered throughout her commentary. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that she really doesn’t SAY much about the worlds in which her women travellers were moving. There is, confoundingly, almost no discussion the wider context of t A great collection of English travel writing from various women authors from mediaeval times to the present, just sadly lacking in editorial nerve. I will say that Robinson does demonstrate a real passion for her subject and there are moments of real warmth and wit scattered throughout her commentary. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that she really doesn’t SAY much about the worlds in which her women travellers were moving. There is, confoundingly, almost no discussion the wider context of travel throughout history beyond the touristic, leisurely, and expeditionary kinds undertaken by privileged northwestern Europeans. And even these are treated as peculiar little artefacts of history and not as highly political institutions which had a profound effect on travellers’ worldviews, whether or not they ultimately agreed with or endorsed them. Don’t get me wrong: it was okay, and the variety of accounts was really interesting. I just felt that it was a little too blithe about a few too many things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rogue

    This took me a very long time to read. I've not really read this sort of thing in the past, so I haven't really got preconceptions of what to expect- But of a book of adventurous women, I expected a few more actual adventures. There was a diverse range of places and memoirs in this, but a lot of them were just downright boring. It turns out that a lot of women travelled not because they wanted to, but because they had to- and then just spent time at home, whereever home became. There were a few c This took me a very long time to read. I've not really read this sort of thing in the past, so I haven't really got preconceptions of what to expect- But of a book of adventurous women, I expected a few more actual adventures. There was a diverse range of places and memoirs in this, but a lot of them were just downright boring. It turns out that a lot of women travelled not because they wanted to, but because they had to- and then just spent time at home, whereever home became. There were a few choice nice anecdotes (a tiger, sailing the seas, meeting locals and animals), but these were overwhelmed by drab and uninspiring stories of women who didn't want to be where they were. I wasn't such a fan of the "shoot on sight" policy of a lot of the more adventurous; although perhaps, they are a product of their time for this mentality. Not the most inspiring read, so a bit of a disappointment overall.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    A bit slow at times, there were several times I skimmed (there's only so much I can read about the description of a leaf). But I enjoyed the stories of women out facing the world, and bravery inherent in that. A bit slow at times, there were several times I skimmed (there's only so much I can read about the description of a leaf). But I enjoyed the stories of women out facing the world, and bravery inherent in that.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marjie

    Great!!!! I'll read it again. Great!!!! I'll read it again.

  11. 5 out of 5

    scarlettraces

    as good as anthologies get. i'm only sorry i tend to prioritise Other People's Books over the ones i own, and thus have had it on my shelves for years before reading it. and nz got a decent look-in! as good as anthologies get. i'm only sorry i tend to prioritise Other People's Books over the ones i own, and thus have had it on my shelves for years before reading it. and nz got a decent look-in!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Fenney

    This snappy anthology was a delight to read and although I've only read the introduction, chapter 1 ("Setting Out"), chapter 7 ("Arabia, Iraq, and Iran"), and chapter 15 ("Coming Home"), I'm looking forward to both reading more of the book at my leisure and including some of the passages in a future course I am writing for grade 9 and DP English next year. The anthology is written in excerpts around themes (e.g. "Setting Out" is about the anticipation of leaving on a trip, "Coming Home" is about This snappy anthology was a delight to read and although I've only read the introduction, chapter 1 ("Setting Out"), chapter 7 ("Arabia, Iraq, and Iran"), and chapter 15 ("Coming Home"), I'm looking forward to both reading more of the book at my leisure and including some of the passages in a future course I am writing for grade 9 and DP English next year. The anthology is written in excerpts around themes (e.g. "Setting Out" is about the anticipation of leaving on a trip, "Coming Home" is about different feelings of ending a trip and repatriating) with commentary from Jane Robinson between each excerpt (each excerpt being at most a few pages). Each chapter has a variety of perspectives of "ladies" who were able to travel at a time when most did not. Although this meant they were ladies of means, it does not translate to identical voices and perspectives. It was inspiring to see women from this time period casting off the mantle of woman- and motherhood to follow their dreams and to know that women had the same desires as men, and had to overcome double the obstacles to see them through. On the other hand, there are ladies who push themselves outside their comfort zone and are equally happy to return home in one piece. Readers will find themselves in these pages, whether they are man or woman or anything in between on the spectrum, whether they are young or old, well-traveled or novice. It's so interesting that despite the fact that this anthology features women from centuries ago, their feelings, their perspectives, their fears and desires... these are all universal. My only criticism is that the name of each piece and its author was listed at its end, although Jane Robinson introduces it in the paragraph just before. As the anthology follows the same women chapter to chapter and sometimes within a chapter, it would be nice to not have to flip to the end of each excerpt to see who is speaking and in what context (i.e. who is the audience - is it a letter to mother, an article in a magazine?). Something for a future edition, I suppose.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sophie (RedheadReading)

    I found this harder to get into than some of Robinson's other books, owing largely to the fact that this was an anthology of extracts rather than a narrative that drew upon primary sources (as others of hers I've read have been). Robinson does state in her introduction that it is a book to dip in and out of, so it's probably partially my fault for attempting to just read it all! So although it did occasionally feel a little disjointed/repetitious, on the whole I'm glad to have read this and it's I found this harder to get into than some of Robinson's other books, owing largely to the fact that this was an anthology of extracts rather than a narrative that drew upon primary sources (as others of hers I've read have been). Robinson does state in her introduction that it is a book to dip in and out of, so it's probably partially my fault for attempting to just read it all! So although it did occasionally feel a little disjointed/repetitious, on the whole I'm glad to have read this and it's served as an excellent start point to source women's travel writing for further reading. All in all, perfectly fine but I much prefer the style of Pandora's Daughters and Bluestockings!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    What a fun adventure! So many places and stories, good and bad. This made me want to travel, explore the world as these women did. Nice anthology, I might read some of the full books, not just excerpts. Read for class

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Klink

    A fascinating read! The cover caught my eye immediately and my interest was piqued.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    An entertaining, fascinating read of these brave and unique women of their time. A must read if you are the least bit interested in traveling.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    Very inspiring and interesting but a little hard to read.👍

  18. 5 out of 5

    Austen to Zafón

    Well, I read most of it. While it was a fascinating look at how women travellers experienced the world and were treated in the past, I wasn't interested in every destination. Mostly, I liked reading what it was like to travel in the 18th and 19th centuries, when every destination was so very different from the next and from home. Letters were infrequent and so they were long and contained much detail. What surprised me most was the lack of prejudice or suspicion in most (although not all) of the Well, I read most of it. While it was a fascinating look at how women travellers experienced the world and were treated in the past, I wasn't interested in every destination. Mostly, I liked reading what it was like to travel in the 18th and 19th centuries, when every destination was so very different from the next and from home. Letters were infrequent and so they were long and contained much detail. What surprised me most was the lack of prejudice or suspicion in most (although not all) of the women. We tend to think of tolerance of different cultures as essentially modern, but these women had a lot to say about a Euro-centric view of the world.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin Thomas

    This was just an OK book for me. I thought I would enjoy it more. There were quite a few interesting stories. One of a woman traveling in West Africa in 1897 who goes ahead of her group taking a lesser path and ends up at the bottom of a game pit where she landed on 12-inch spikes. She would have been dead except for the fullness of her skirts! In other stories, women are carried around in chairs and hammocks on poles (by the natives ofcourse)! Another woman who made the first ascent of a mounta This was just an OK book for me. I thought I would enjoy it more. There were quite a few interesting stories. One of a woman traveling in West Africa in 1897 who goes ahead of her group taking a lesser path and ends up at the bottom of a game pit where she landed on 12-inch spikes. She would have been dead except for the fullness of her skirts! In other stories, women are carried around in chairs and hammocks on poles (by the natives ofcourse)! Another woman who made the first ascent of a mountain in Peru dressed herself in a cozy Eskimo suit which had formerly been on exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Darby

    Really interesting reading

  21. 4 out of 5

    ^

    Geographically categorised. Simply a lovely book to travel with and dip into.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    A fun book to dip into and out of. The editor has organized passages from these women's memoirs of their travels and adventures. A fun book to dip into and out of. The editor has organized passages from these women's memoirs of their travels and adventures.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Every adventurous female needs to read this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shoned Jones

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hb

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alessia Manzoni

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