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Minnie Leola Crawford – Seven Weeks in Hawaii by an American Girl

 “I found it harder to part with this spot than any other, for I believe the happiest  moments of my very happy visit have been spent at this place.” (Crawford 111)

Minnie Leola Crawford was a young woman from the state of Washington who visited Hawaii in the early 20th century. During her trip, she wrote 22 letters to her mother in which she described all the adventures she had experienced. Crawford’s letters were first read by her friends who were very fond of them and “insisted on their publication” (Whitcomb Hassell 13). In 1913, Howard D. Berrett published the letters in the book “Seven Weeks in Hawaii by an American Girl” with plenty of photographs attached, taken by the author herself (Davis 83, Whitcomb Hassell 13). 

Thirteen years before Crawford’s visit, Hawaii had officially become part of the US territory. During the 19th century, the American idea of increasing its influence in the Pacific and Caribbean developed (Poblete 693). Expansionists wanted “to make the best use of the lands, waters, flora, fauna and people they encountered” (ibid.). In 1810 however, the kingdom of Hawaii was founded (Poblete 697). 

The first major European settlement in Hawaii, which was established in 1820, started the spread of the Christian belief on the islands (Poblete 698). The settlers were quickly accepted by the royal family, in particular by Queen Ka’ahumanu, resulting in long-lasting interaction between Hawaii and the United States (ibid.). From this day on, the American influence on Hawaii constantly increased. Native Hawaiians and the United States built economic relations and Hawaii “became the main source for American sugar production in the postbellum era” (ibid.).

Moreover, the United States started collecting plenty of uninhabited islands located in the Pacific to build an American empire (Immerwahr 63).  At the same time, Americans started missionary work which led to a slow exchange of Hawaiian tradition with “Western structures and ideals, such as capitalism and a constitutional system” (Poblete 698). The Hawaiian language, previously having been passed on by music, was now expressed in Western characters (ibid.). The Hawaiian government soon tried to adapt to the new standards to be considered “an equally civilized nation” (ibid.).

Despite these efforts, the reigning Queen Lili´uokalani was overthrown by the Americans in 1893 and Hawaii was declared a republic of the United States (Poblete 698). Just five years later, in 1898, Hawaii was forcefully annexed (Poblete 699) and officially became US territory in 1900 (ibid.).


During her trip to Hawaii Crawford shows awareness of the US expansionism but tries to distance herself from the concept of American exceptionalism by making an effort to respectfully interact with the Hawaiians and their culture. 

The influence of US expansionism can clearly be seen in the second to last letter Crawford wrote to her mother, approaching the end of her journey. As several-day long festivals were held in Honolulu, Crawford, by using an antonomasia, describes the American flag floating above the mass of people who came from all over the world to celebrate (Crawford 104). While she names Japanese, Filipinos, and Portuguese as a huge part next to the native population, the “Stars and Stripes” (Crawford 103) are literally standing above these nations.

Furthermore, Crawford witnessed the “Parade of Stars” (Crawford 107). During that event the 48 American states were presented in a grand festive – Alaska and Hawaii not yet officially being declared states, however, the intention seems obvious after the annexation of the island. Here again, Crawford uses the rhetorical figure of antonomasia to describe the parade (ibid.).

While the United States was keen on broadening its control over the small nation, Crawford as well cannot completely let go of westernized standards despite her best attempts. By writing about her initial expectations of her housing being of lesser quality than “first-class hotel[s] on the mainland” (Crawford 19) and describing the Hula-dance as “neither graceful nor pretty” (Crawford 48), the reader gets the impression that Crawford, after all, is still American and deeply influenced by her own culture and indirectly compares Hawaii to the United States.

However, instead of judging, Crawford has the visible habit of never actually using negative expressions but writing in neutral terms. While explaining the fruits she ate that day to her mother she describes them as having “a flavor unknown to the commercial product” (Crawford 35) and therefore comparing them in a very unusual way.

Furthermore, she shows a great open-mindedness in the majority of her texts: Often repeated words on several occasions consist of terms like “foreign” (Crawford 41), “different” (Crawford 54), “new” (Crawford 64), and “interesting” (Crawford 74).  Moreover, Crawford uses an overwhelming amount of positively connotated adjectives and emotional language, such as “happiest” (Crawford 111),  which show her positivity and enjoyment during her stay.

In addition, the author includes plenty of Hawaiian words to describe her environment in the Indigenous language. When writing about the gala days, she mentions that there was a “luau” (Crawford 104) taking place nearby the ex-Queen’s residence, meaning there was a public celebration. The last page of her book also contains a listing of Hawaiian vocabulary and English translations (Crawford 113). By including the Indigenous language, Crawford tries to adapt parts of the Hawaiian culture and pays respect to the people’s lives on the islands.

The gala days in her last letters as well were written in full enjoyment, nevertheless, they show us a rare occasion of Crawford talking about the political situation at her time. While she describes the harmony between the shown American standards and the native population, she talks about the latter as “happy, light-hearted people whose land it really is” (Crawford 108). As she is indirectly criticizing the forced annexation of Hawaii and the following impact on their land and culture, Crawford just writes in the best of ways about the Hawaiians themselves.

In her last letter as well, Crawford clearly criticizes the way Americans treated the island and its people: “Watching this happy, nature-loving people in their beautiful setting […] I can but wonder that a people writing and speaking so much on conservation of natural beauties should seek to make Hawaii less Hawaiian” (Crawford 111). After her well-expected positive description of the people, she talks about Americans as being proud of their nature and culture in the same way, as they write and talk about conserving their own land. Due to the pretty close comparison of these two nations with the same goal – persevering their nation – she is questioning the US intention of controlling Hawaii even though she is obviously aware of American history.

Hereby, it is important to mention that Crawford never actually names certain historical or political events, as her mother and she herself seem to be educated about current events and the letters were never intended to be published in the first place. These rare indications are even more surprising considering these factors.  Due to these circumstances we also get to read Crawford’s unfiltered opinions without any hidden intentions.

photograph taken by Minnie Leola Crawford

Thanks to Crawford´s detailed descriptions of Hawaii’s history and culture, not only her mother but the readers, in general, get a deep insight into the population, events and Crawford´s perception of them and her time in Hawaii. It becomes obvious that she takes the time to get to know Hawaii in detail, e.g., the vocabulary, names, and historical events. In all of her letters, there are native terms and explanations which implicate her interest and passion for the island. 

After all, she “found it harder to part with this spot than any other” (Crawford 111) because she spent “the happiest moment of [her] very happy visit” (ibid.) on the Hawaiian beach. She again expresses her feelings by including a rhetorical figure, in this case a figura etymologica. With those words Crawford ended her very last letter before returning to the US, proving that, while falling back into clichés from time to time, she was not only deeply enjoying her stay. Furthermore, she acted in a very respectful manner in front of the Hawaiians and their land despite the political situation she is even able to criticize.


Primary Sources

Crawford, Minnie Leola. Seven Weeks in Hawaii by an American Girl. John J. Newbegin, 1913.,

Secondary Sources

Davis, David. Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku. Nebraska UP, 2015. Ebook central,

Immerwahr, Daniel. “The Territorial Empire” The Cambridge History of American and the World: Volume 3: 1900–1945, 2021, pp. 63–74. Cambridge UP, doi: 10.1017/9781108297530.004

Poblete, JoAnna. “The American Island Empire: US Expansionism in the Pacific and the Caribbean.” The Cambridge History of America and the World: Volume 2: 1812– 1900, 2022, pp. 693–715. Cambridge UP, doi: 10.1017/9781108297479.

Whitcomb Hassell, Susan. A hundred and sixty books by Washington authors, some other writers who are contributors to periodical literature, lines worth knowing by heart. Lowman and Hanford Co, 1916., 


“Hawaii state administrative map”, – maps of the world, (accessed 30.06.2022)

Crawford, Minnie Leola. XX “Seven Weeks in Hawaii by an American girl”, p.112. 

„Hap-Hazard“ By kate Field

Mary Katheriene “Kate” Field, an American 19th century freelance journalist, travel writer, actor and lecturer, was born on October 1st, 1839 in St. Louis, Missouri into a family of actors. She got her education in New England, where she lived with her wealthy uncle and aunt. Later, she studied abroad in Florence and London, “[where] her artistic culture was matured” (McGee). In Italy, she started to write her first articles as an Italian correspondent and sent them to the American newspapers. She’s known to be “one of the first women to [ever] contribute to the Atlantic Monthly in the 1860s” (Scharnhorst 159). Field mainly worked for the New York Tribune and New York Herald. All in all, she published about three thousand articles, reviews and editorials and became especially known for her dispatches to Tribune about Charles Dickens’ lectures in 1867/68. As it was not common for a woman to be present in the public (and especially scientistic) sphere, she was heavily discriminated, e.g. Field was not allowed to meet Dickens before or after his lectures and she was paid significantly less for her columns in contrast to her male colleagues. In spring 1869, she began her lecturing career and was praised for “her moderation and feminine decorum during her performances” (Scharnhorst 161).

“[B]ecause Miss Field takes up her work with quietness and courtesy […] because she does not denounce, nor bully nor demand, because she illustrates her belief that any woman, like any man, appearing as a public speaker, is bound to give her hearers the highest result of her culture, that her appearance on the platform is earnestly to be welcome” (Reid in Scharnhorst 162)

On her journalistic journey through Europe, she wrote various articles. Especially her reports from England were “more widely read than the items Twain sent the Herald” (Scharnhorst 168). In 1873, Kate Field published her famous book “Hap-Hazard”. In between 1890 and 1895, Field established her weekly paper Kate Field’s Washington.

Generally, it is known that she supported abolition and the rights of freed slaves and opposed prohibition as well as universal suffrage as in her opinion, only educated and Native Americans should have the right to vote (Cummis 286/87).

Kate Field died on Hawaii on May 19th, 1896 of pneumonia. After her death, the New York Tribune described her as “one of the best-known women in America” (Scharnhorst 174).

Hap-Hazard consists of her articles written for The New York Tribune and The American Register of Paris. In the first part of the book she describes her experiences and remarks as a lecturer whereas the second part of the book deals with her travel writing during her stay in Europe.


In Hap-Hazard it becomes obvious that Field depicts an example of the American New Woman but still conveys some reactionary views on the concept of Womanhood.

According to Patterson, the concept of New Womanhood constantly changed throughout history (1). However, this article only focuses on the period between the 1880s and 1900s. At that point of time, the New American Women were mostly associated with suffragists. One of the main aims of New Womanhood were economical independence of women, the right to participate in the public sphere and the possibility for women to fulfill themselves as individuals. Furthermore, a significant number of New Women supported social or sexual purity as they believed “society and the race would improve if the ethics of pure, altruistic, rational woman prevailed rather than those of lustful, competitive man” (Patterson 8). Another meaningful formation within the New Womanhood was the Women’s Club Movement, whose participants aimed to educate other women on social, political or cultural issues. In any case, the New Women worked towards a new and better future.

At the very beginning of the book, Field states “I am persuaded that a woman can go anywhere and do anything” (11) which shows that she does truly believe in the freedom and independence of women. However, she makes it clear that this freedom is only given if a woman “conducts herself properly” (11). This makes it very much clear that she still sticks to the old conviction that women should be well-behaved and properly mannered. Ironically, Field herself is viewed as unfeminine by other women, since “she never can keep still, always going to theaters and reporting the plays, […]  drives fast horses and […] smoke[s]” (41). On page 12, she again praises women by explaining how well they “can rescue [themselves]” and get through life without the help of any men. Thereby she opposes men as being a “tyrant” (11) to “lovely [women]” (12). The adjective “lovely” is used ironically to express women’s supposed weakness and helplessness. Simultaneously, Field criticizes how men and women are both born with the same features – muscles and brain. However, in the presence of men, women seem to completely fail to use their own god-given qualities and completely rely on men to do everything for them (12).

During one of her stays in a hotel, Field becomes witness to a quarrel between a married couple. She seems utterly shocked by the wife’s behavior towards her husband: “Never before had I seen a henpecked husband” (26). She compares this scenery with domestic abuse against women by using a simile “It is almost as horrible a spectacle as seeing a man beat his wife” (26). Although she views domestic violence as a “horrible […] spectacle” (26), she also legitimizes it for certain cases: “for I believe that some wives do deserve beating, — this one, for example.” (26). To highlight the discrepancy between the woman’s behavior and her appearance, Field again uses the word “loveliness” ironically (26).

On page 167, Field makes use of parallelisms “Women sing in public, act in public, read in public; why, then, should they not speak?” to shed a light on the fact that women are already active in public and that there therefore is no reason to forbid them to speak. Then she comes up with multiple reasons why women are born speakers and uses the stylistic device of enumeration “Women are more impulsive, more sympathetic, more persuasive” (168) to convince the reader of women’s naturally given gifts. Nevertheless, Field puts a lot of stress on female appearance “Women are born more graceful; they have the great gift of beauty and the great privilege of dress” (168) which seems contradictory to the idea of emphasizing women’s intellectual side.

In conclusion, Kate Field supports women’s rights, just like an ideal American New Woman would do, but still some of her views are based on a regressive and outdated perception of women.

Primary Sources:

Field, Kate. Hap-Hazard. J. R. Osgood and Co., 1873.

McGee, W.J., and Martin F. Morris. “In Memoriam: Kate Field, 1840–1896. Joseph Meredith Toner, 1825–1896.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., vol. 1, 1897, pp. 171–84.

Secondary Sources:

Scharnhorst, Gary. “Kate Field on Thoreau.” The Concord Saunterer, vol. 9, 2001, pp. 140–45.

Scharnhorst, Gary. “Kate Field and the ‘New York Tribune.’” American Periodicals, vol. 14, no. 2, 2004, pp. 159–78

The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894–1930. Edited by Martha H. Patterson, Rutgers UP, 2008.


„Kate Field.“ The New York Public Library Digital Collections,

Nellie Bly – “Around the world in seventy-two days“

“I always have a comfortable feeling that nothing is impossible if one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction.“

Until Nellie Bly became “the most famous journalist of her day“ (Kroeger 14), as her biographer Brooke Kroeger depicts her, she lived a rather common and frustrating life. Born in May 1864, Elizabeth Jane Cochrane – that is how she was named by birth – aimed to get a good job as a teacher in fast-industrializing Pittsburgh, but was forced to drop out of school at the age of 15 because her family could not pay the tuition funds (Mahoney 33). Nevertheless, with the growing sensitivity to injustice, she once submitted an audacious letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch in response to a sexist column about a woman’s role in society.

Surprisingly, the editor was so impressed by the 19-year-old girl that he offered her to write proper articles for the newspaper (Mahoney 35). Cochrane then adopted the pen name Nellie Bly and started a unique journalistic career. In the following years, she soon made a name for herself as she reported undercover from inside a New York mental asylum in 1887. Like that she pioneered investigative journalism and pathed the way for other female journalists (Kroeger 7).

In 1888 she had the idea to travel the world in less than eighty days. Bly was inspired by the famous Phileas Fogg from the book “Around the world in 80 days“ by the French author Jules Verne. Her aim was to beat Fogg’s record and travel the world in seventy-five days or less (Bly 2).

Her travel report was first published in four parts in the New York World (for which she worked during her world tour) and later as a book (Hurst). When she returned to the US, all the train stations where she stopped were filled with big crowds admiring her for her achievement (Bly 84 ff.).
She did not publish the book together with the New York World as she left the newspaper due to some unresolved dispute with her superiors. Nevertheless, the first edition of 10.000 copies sold out fast, and „Bly busily prepared for the second printing“ (Kroeger, 186). Critics nowadays reproach her for racial expressions and sympathy for British imperialism (Hurst).

Nellie Bly’s route on her world tour


In her travel report, Nellie Bly portrays herself as a woman of extraordinary willpower and a good sense of self-esteem, although she lived in a society that did not offer much space for female emancipation, which aligns with the concept of the “New Woman“.

Though Nellie Bly achieved fame through various reports, she is best known for her travel report “Around the world in Seventy-two Days“ from 1890. Apart from the cultural insight from the different places from all over the world, she also offers insights into her ambitions as a modern woman – a woman who is also referred to as the “New Woman“ in literary and scientific circles. Women of this period are said to have had a strong sense of justice and equality and a need for economic independence and self-realization. They campaigned for these rights with a lot of willpower (Patterson 6,9).

“Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.“

Bly 2

Such tendencies are also evident in Nellie Bly’s travel writing. When she presented her idea of traveling around the world in less than eighty days to her editor, she was rejected by him arguing that he rather wanted to send off a man (2). However, Nellie did not let this slow her down – she wanted to make this trip so eagerly that she responded to this rejection with a blunt answer: “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him“ (2). Her will to make this journey became even clearer when she looked up several ship and train connections and realized that it would indeed be possible to complete this journey in less than eighty days. She described this feeling as if she had discovered the “elixir of life“ (2). 

This reaction suggests that for Nellie, the trip is not just a vacation as she claims at the beginning (2), but possibly an inner need as well. One of her principles, which she mentions in her book, is that nothing is impossible as long as you apply “a certain amount of energy in the right direction“ (3). In the biography by Brooke Kroeger, Nellie is furthermore described as a character who strongly believes in her ability to know how to act right and accordingly lives by her own rules (145). One of these rules for Nellie is that life is what you make out of it. Last but not least, this attitude allowed her to go on this journey. When her editor informed Nellie only two days before departure that she could start the journey after all and asked her whether she would be ready then, she replied instantly: “I can start this minute“ (3) – without having had time to think about her luggage or the course of her journey. Kroeger correspondingly describes her as fearless and the force of her will as her greatest asset (14). 

The 25-year-old Nelli Bly then started on November 14, 1889, and made it to Singapore in mid-December already. Together with her comrades, she wanted to visit a Hindoo temple there but was not permitted to enter, because she was a woman (Bly 55). She promptly asked “Why?“ (55). In her own words, she was “curious to know why [her] sex in heathen lands should exclude [her] from a temple“ (55).

The “Augusta Victoria“ – the steamer on which Nellie Bly started her journey

However, one should be aware of the cultural differences she faced in this Asian country which do not necessarily correspond to American social standards. At this point, her belief that everything is possible is pushed to its limits. But instead of arguing with the priest, she got over it and joined the laughter of her companions (55). In this scene, she presented herself as a joyful and positive character who accepted unchangeable things as they were.

“If you want to do it, you can do it. The question is, do you want to do it?“

Bly 3

The same attitude comes across a few days and pages later when Nellie Bly writes about the night in which the ship sailed into a heavy storm: on her way to Hong Kong, the monsoon was so harsh that her ship was flooded and she expected it to “doubtless[ly] sink“ (59). Contrary to several terrified men on board, Bly’s only concern was that nobody would know if she had made the world tour or not. It seems, that not even death could change her mind – she remains fully committed to her plan. At that point, she articulates this second key principle of hers: “All the worry in the world can not change it one way or the other“ (59). Despite the raging storm, she just went to sleep and “slumbered soundly until the breakfast hour“ (59). Staying calm and sober in this life-threatening situation proves trust in life, fate, and unshakable optimism. 

Nellie Bly’s mission of traveling the world in less than eighty days is proof of her strength, willpower, and determination. The close look at some extracts of Nellie Bly’s travel report gives an insight into the way the author sees herself and allows us to confirm our hypothesis. 


Primary Source:

Bly, Nellie. Around the World in 72 Days, The Pictorial Weeklies Company. 1890.,

Secondary Sources:

Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. New York: Times Books. 1994.,  haps:// 

Mahoney, Ellen. „Nellie Bly: Pioneer Journalist Exptraordinaire.“ Western Pennsylvania History 1918-2018, vol. 102, no. 2, Summer 2017, pp. 32-45,

Hurst, Fabienne. “Lästermaul Auf Großer Fahrt.” DER SPIEGEL, DER SPIEGEL, 25 Apr. 2013. tagen-um-die-welt-a-951100.html. (last access on 26.06.22)

Petterson, H. Martha. The American new woman revisited: a reader, 1894–1930. Rutgers UP. 2008. (Access via stud.ip)


Portrait Nellie Bly:

Travel Route:

Augusta Victoria:

A Narrative of the Life and Travels of mrs. nancy prince

Nancy Gardner was born on September 15th, 1799 in Newburyport. She was the granddaughter of a captured African slave named Tobias Wornton, who also fought in the Revolutionary army. At the age of three months, her father Thomas Gardner, who also had African roots, died. When Nancy was young, she worked as a servant for white families or sold berries with her brother to support the family. She worked in Boston for several years, where she tried to stay afloat financially through hard work. On September 1st, 1823 she met the sailor Nero Prince, when he arrived in Boston. One year later, on February 14th, they both got married and moved to St. Petersburg. Her connection to god, in particular, also strengthened in Russia, as she also campaigned especially for religious and social reforms (Gunning 35). After she traveled back to the United States, a few months later her husband died, so she wondered what God’s plan was for her after this tragedy. As a result, Nancy Prince worked as a missionary, traveled twice to Jamaica and fought for women’s rights, especially for black slave women (Gunning 35). Nancy Prince also established a free labor school for black orphans, who should have equal rights in education. “Still, despite these efforts and the publication of her autobiography, Prince never seemed able to rise above poverty, and by the year 1857 she disappeared from public notice.” (Gunning 35).


Nancy Prince is her own subject and object of mobility. However, certain parameters of travel, especially religion and her ethnicity determined her journey in a way that made her envisionise a society with diasporic consciousness that lives without discrimination and equal chances in education.

Prince’s mobility was voluntary, however, her motives were drawn by labor and family or later on community. It is notable that in Prince’s lifetime, mobility was mainly asserted by the white population. In Cheryl Fish’s definition, ‘mobile subjectivity’  is described “as subjectivity that emerges in engagements with shifting landscapes, institutions, people and culture, performing serial and multiple identities – in both black and white women’s travel writing.”(Nayar 5). In the light of that definition Prince’s mobility was not only influenced by herself as a character but also by her surroundings. Although she felt that she moved voluntarily, her early travels were not marked by agency. Through her narrative oppression of black people is conveyed (Foster 330). Thus, it becomes her concern to unite Black diasporic people (diasporic meaning that African-descended people, irrespective of the place they currently live in, always identify themselves as African and feel misplaced. As a consequence, they strive to ‘return’ to a place where they feel at home) (Kalous 32 f.). Prince made it her mission to spread awareness towards diaspora and connect people to exchange experiences and fight oppression. To accomplish that task Prince used mobility and made herself the object of it by using agency and the subject of it by acting within her surroundings.

When Prince grew up and felt the urge (maybe the pressure was also set externally) to take financial care of her family, her mobility was constituted by poverty. 

“I was a poor stranger, but fourteen years of age, imposed upon by these good people; but I must leave them.”

Prince 12
Nancy Prince (1799-1857)

The moment that Prince took matters into her own hands and decided to go somewhere she especially chose to go was the moment that she moved out of agency. She went from poverty and an unhappy childhood to choosing her occupation and living self-determined (Nayar 8f.).

Self-determination and agency are also shown when Prince decided to go after her sister to ‘safe’ her from her unhappy life working as a prostitute. It seems as if not only her sister, but her family, in general, were a great burden. In particular, the men she encountered, such as her step-father, the new husband of her mother, or her brother, for example, who disappointed her by being abusive, being financially demanding, or not caring enough. Prince´ s narrative generally is characterized by negative associations with men (Foster 335). 

“[…]but mother chose to marry again; this was like death to us all. George returned home, but was so disappointed that he shipped again to return no more.”

Prince 18

However, in her perception, the picture of a functioning family is conveyed when strong men take responsibility for it (Nayar 8 f.). Unlike her family which was not able in using mobility as a tool to become independent and successful, Prince decides to travel for her own sake and the sake of others. Nevertheless, she moves self-determined (Nayar 9 f.). She strives to be different than those men who disappointed her and draws strength from her identity as a woman to be mobile. Her experiences and being female enabled her to act divergent and be responsible. Prince gains full mobility of agency by deciding to travel without depending on her family (Foster 330). 

Agency also is provided by the movement to Russia and being married to Nero Prince. In Russia she was free to labor in a field she choose, namely boarding children and making children’s clothes. Her engagement was not gender-stereotypical, nevertheless, it was accepted. To Nancy Prince´ S surprise, also her skin color did not matter in St. Petersburg, because 

“there was no prejudice against color; there were there all casts, and the people of all nations, each in their place”

Prince 23

During her time in Russia, Prince also came into contact with religious actions that she did not agree with and questioned certain gender- or class-based practices. Realizing that she was not able to change society, especially because of political and social disagreements, Prince decided to move back to the United States. Again, we can detect mobility of agency, because she does not rely on men (her husband for instance) anymore and travels solely for her motives. Back in her home country, Prince tried to implement her plan to help in creating a society with diasporic consciousness. She founded a community that was supposed to take care of African-American children. Unfortunately, the community did not last. Ultimately, she went to Jamaica and found racial and social injustices. This time she decides to do something about it and planned on establishing Free labor schools for girls. In Jamaica Prince also comes into contact with the so-called Maroons. From her perspective, their way of living displays a model of a utopian society whose members are black women and men (former slaves) who are independent and do not need white authorities (Foster 2013). For her, mobility plays a huge role in becoming independent. In Prince´s perception, the help of God also is required to achieve equality and independence. 

“I am a wonder unto many, but the Lord is my strong refuge, and in him, I will trust. I shall fear no evil, for thou, O Lord, art ever near to shield and protect thy dependent children.”

Prince 87

 Throughout the book, Prince often critically questions the ways Christianity is practiced. Through traveling Nancy Prince saw that it is a sad certainty that black and white women do not have equal rights. Especially black women and slaves from Africa in general had to cope with tough situations while travelling across the so called “Middle Passage” which was a trade route for transporting captured Africans who were forced to attain the new World across the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, also the path as a changer of social reforms can be described as very difficult and nerve wracking based on her narrative. Particularly, God and her faith in it were always by her side and gave her the support that she needed. Of course, obstacles such as discrimination did not make her life any easier, but she published her autobiography to show that she is not only able to work, but is also a traveler, woman, missionary or widow who advocates equal rights and education for everyone. 

Works cited

Andrews, Larry. “TWO BLACK WOMEN IN RUSSIA: TACIT RACIAL IDENTITY AND THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT.” CLA Journal, vol. 52, no. 4, 2009, pp. 327–52. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Gunning, Sandra. “Nancy Prince and the Politics of Mobility, Home and Diasporic (Mis)Identification.” American Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 1, 2001, pp. 32–69. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Kalous, Isabel. Black Travel Writing: Contemporary Narratives of Travel to Africa by African American and Black British Authors, transcript Verlag, 2021. pp. 31-48.

Prince, Nancy. A Narrative of The Life And Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince. WM. A. HALL, 1853.


Cover image:

Nancy Prince:

Susie King Taylor

– Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with The 33D United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers

The American Civil War was one of the bloodiest war fought on US-American soil and still to this day, there has never been anything like it. 1861-1865, US-citizens fought against each other over slavery, states rights and westward expansion (History, 2021). The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to liberate all of the enslaved citizens and made it possible for them to join the Union Army (History, 2022). After the liberal Union Army officially won over the opposing, more conservative Confederate Army, slavery was officially abolished in the US (Britannica, 2022). The following period is now known as the Reconstruction era and marked by the winner’s attempt to secure the rights achieved through the victory over the Confederates, as well as the integration of the Southern states; of which some aspects, especially the latter, failed.

Susie King Taylor

“In this „land of the free“ we are burned, tortured, and denied a fair trial, murdered for any imaginary wrong conceived in the brain of the negro-hating white man. There is no redress for us from a government which promised to protect all under its flag.”

Taylor, pg. 61

Susie King Taylor, née Susannah Ann Baker, was born in 1848 in Liberty County, Georgia – as one of nine children and raised in slavery. She was lucky to be raised in a household where slaves were treated cordial and she was allowed to be with her grandmother in Savannah when she was seven years old. As the eldest of all her siblings she was fortunate enough to be sent to visit a school in the city, although attending a school for black enslaved children was illegal at that time. She got an exceptionally well education compared to other children in slavery at that time. When she was 13 years old, her uncle decided it was best for the safety of the family to flee to St. Catherines Island which was secured by the more liberal Union Army. From this time onwards, Susie can be regarded as a freedwoman. Being one of the few former slaves able to read and write, Taylor got the opportunity to work as a teacher for the children on St. Simon’s Island. During that time, she married her first husband, Edward King, aged 14. As he was a soldier in the first black regiment, she accompanied and served them as a laundress and nurse, but also as a teacher. After war, she still worked as a one, but circumstances made it hard for her and her husband, who soon after died, to retain a good lifestyle. Being left as a single-mother, Taylor had to work as a housekeeper in Boston for the rest of her life to make ends meet. Later, she married a second time: a man named Russell L. Taylor. While travelling to the South again when her son was on his deathbed, Taylor wrote her memoirs, part of that being the novel which this blog post is about; making her the only African-African woman to ever write about her experience in the American Civil War (Kelly, 2020).

„Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with The 33D United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers“ is an autobiographical book, which Taylor published many years after the described events. Taylor sketches an overview of her ancestry (ch. 1) and early life (ch. 2), leading up to her service in the Civil War (ch. 3-10) and the years during Reconstruction (ch. 11-12). At the end, she gives an interesting plead about the circumstances in which she finds her contemporary US and how she thinks that the final goal go equality and freedom is yet to be achieved (ch. 13); finishing her story with travel reports of her life during Reconstruction (ch. 14) – most suitable for considering travel writing.


In „Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with The 33D United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers“ (1902), the author Susie King Taylor describes to which extent the Reconstruction era after the American Civil War in several regions of the US was rather a regression than an improvement for Women and Civil Rights.

The first incident is the visit of her deadly ill son in 1898. He has been travelling with „Nickens and Company“ (pg. 69), which to me seems like a business travel. Surprisingly, he already „had been ill two weeks when they sent [her]“ (pg. 69), which suggests that his illness has been underestimated from the start, as it turned out to be deadly for him. Taylor first of all describes her journey to Shreveport, where her ill son was located.

When entering the train in Cincinnati, she is told by a white man to take the smoking car as „that is the car for colored people“ (pg. 69). With that he indicates clearly that African-American people at that time were seen as unworthy for comfortable travel. Furthermore, it occurred to me that the smoke to some extent symbolises the „blackness“ of the skin color of the people that are supposed to ride in this car. It shows how contemporarily, racism was veiled in more general categories such as „smoking“ and „non-smoking“.

Taylor mentions that she „wanted to return home again“ (pg. 69) rather than being forced to sit in this car, but considering her son’s state she gives in. Additionally, she thinks about that „others ride in these cars“ (pg. 69) which indicates a general connectedness and understanding between the African-American people’s suffering. Still, her refusal to this car generally is a hint to her high self-esteem which she holds had regardless of her skin color and which also seems quite self-evident for her.

Another situation which occurred on the journey is when two men enter the train and ask her „Where are those men that were with you?“ (Pg. 70). Later in the story she gets to know that they were policemen looking for a man that had eloped with another man’s wife. Still, it rang to me that she as a woman was asked about a man accompanying her because it seems like it was unusual for a black woman to travel alone. Surprisingly, for the most part of the story, no skin colour or ethnic is mentioned. That fits the description of Taylor as a woman who did not make much difference between black and white (Groeling, 2019); but it also sometimes confuses the context of her story.

When the conductor tells her about how black people in the South were lynched and abused on a daily basis, it nearly appears inevitable and normal – he even answers to her confusion with „Oh, that is nothing“ (pg. 71). It shows how racism was well-known and accepted within the population. Another prove for that is the incident of a man who was „murdered in cold blood for nothing“ (pg. 72); a narrative which she concludes with the observation that „the persons were never punished when they were white, but no mercy was shown to negroes“ (pg. 73).

Describing the train resembling a typical „laborer’s car used in Boston“ (pg. 71) she also includes poor white people, besides the black ones. It adds up with what is mentioned in the text by Rosen (2018), that poor whites as well as the former slaves sought labor in the industrial sectors and traveled in the cities to find one. It goes to show how similar their destinies after the Civil War went.

Taylor’s narrative of her son’s story ends with a huge disappointment. Her boy dies in Shreveport with her being unable to get him a berth to be carried home. When she writes „It seemed very hard, when his father fought to protect the Union and our flag, and yet his boy was denied, under this same flag, a berth to carry him home to die, because he was a negro“ (pg. 71-72), all of her disappointment in the state and resignation over the contemporary circumstances come to show. When reading this passage, I noticed how enraged she must have been over the situation, as she rarely emotionally mentions her son’s death but rather the circumstances in which society denied him being at home in death.

„A great many [white people] have the idea that the entire Negro race are vastly their inferiors. A few weeks of calm unprejudiced life here would disabuse them, I think. I have a more elevated opinion of their abilities than I ever had before. I know that many of them are vastly the superiors of those…who would condemn them to a life of brutal degradation.“

Unknown Union Captiain, Mintz 1998

Throughout the story, the army and its reputation play a huge role for Taylor. She seemingly gets annoyed by how former black soldiers are treated worse than others when wearing their buttons (pg. 73). The quote of a newsman which she includes is particularly interesting. When he mentions that „Sherman ought to come back and go into that part of the country“, the resignation over the situation becomes graspable. Sherman, as a leader and famous contributor to the victory of the Union Army is a symbol for a hero in fighting injustice and slavery. It goes to show that seemingly only violence can end the abuse and injustice in the South which Taylor lamented a lot in her novel.

Troups in the American Civil War

Her glorification of the treatment of black people during the war shows a huge difference to what she experienced during Reconstruction; and to some extent, her frustration is understandable.

Even today, the Civil Rights for black people are by far not yet secured. For black women, double discrimination also plays a huge role and has yet to be overcome. There is also a clear interconnectedness between Black Rights and Women Rights Movement (Fleming, 1975); both of which still have a long way to go.

“My people are striving to attain the full standard of all other races born free in the sight of God, and in a number of instances have succeeded. Justice we ask, to be citizens of these United States, where so many of our people have shed their blood with their white comrades, that the stars and stripes should never be polluted.”

Taylor, pg. 76

Secondary Sources

American Civil War | Causes & Effects (2022): Encyclopedia Britannica, [online] [abgerufen am 19.06.2022].

Boisseau, Tracey Jane (2008): View of Travelling with Susie King Taylor | thirdspace: a journal of feminist theory and culture, thirdspace, [online] [abgerufen am 16.06.2022].

Fleming, John E. (1975): Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction: A Study of Black Women in Microcosm, in: Negro History Bulletin, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 430–433.

Groeling, Meg (2019): Susie King Taylor: The First African American Army Nurse, Emerging Civil War, [online] [abgerufen am 11.06.2022]. Editors (2021): Civil War, HISTORY, [online] [abgerufen am 17.06.2022]. Editors (2022): Black Civil War Soldiers, HISTORY, [online] [abgerufen am 18.06.2022].

Kelly, Kate (2020): Susie King Taylor (1848–1912), Educator, Author, Activist, America Comes Alive, [online] [abgerufen am 19.06.2022].

Mintz, Steven (1998): Historical Context: Black Soldiers in the Civil War | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Gilder Lehrmann Institute of American History, [online] [abgerufen am 12.06.2022].

Susie King Taylor (U.S. National Park Service) (2020): National Park Service, [online] [abgerufen am 11.06.2022].

Sarah Emma E. Edmonds

Nurse and Spy in the Union Army

Sarah Emma E. Edmonds

Sarah Emma E. Edmonds was born in 1841 in the British Colony New Brunswick in Canada. Because of her only brother’s epilepsy, Edmonds had to take over many tasks in the household usually given to boys and had to endure her father’s disappointment of the lack of a healthy son. Her father betrothed her to a much older man in 1965, but she fled her home before the wedding took place. She disguised herself as a man to travel to Michigan and work as a salesman. After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Edmonds enlisted as Franklin Thompson and was mustered as a field nurse and a spy. She contracted Malaria in 1863 and abandoned her regiment instead of seeking help. Consequently, she was listed as a deserter and could not return. Instead, she published her book Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, which is thought to be highly fictionalized by many historians (Frank 226-227). 

Sarah Emma E. Edmonds in male attire


In Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, Sarah Emma E. Edmonds shows awareness of seperate spheres but constructs a self-image localizing her in the male sphere, justiyfing this through her faith and patriotism.

In the publisher’s notice preceding Edmonds’ writing, the reader gets reminded of the author’s “purest motives and most praiseworthy patriotism” (Edmonds 6) for her disguises and later of the “moral character of the work, – being true to virtue, patriotism and philanthropy” (Edmonds 6). By using the religious notion of purity, the publisher establishes a connection between faith and patriotism as altruistic motives profitable to society and already sets the tone for the following text. The “romantic idealism of the Civil War” (Teorey 78), spread by the “political and intellectual authorities when they proclaimed [fighting in the war] to be a noble endeavour” (ibid.) was a huge factor for female enlistment and thereby entering a male-dominated sphere. So much so that the publisher notes it as the only reason for participating. Corresponding to that, the notice mentions “our country’s history” (Edmonds 6) and “our brothers” (ibid.), rhetorically emphasizing the idea of a collective benefit, an involvement of every citizen and a national identity.  

In the first chapter of the book, Edmonds introduces the reader to the topic by naming the incidents leading to the Civil War as “events […] destined to blacken the fair pages of American history” (Edmonds 17). The term “destiny” might evoke the idea of the War as part of God’s plan, maybe meant to test the young nation, in the reader’s minds. Along with Edmonds’ notion of the American population as “the most happy and prosperous nation the sun ever shone upon” (ibid.), this interpretation appears persuasive. The belief of America as “beacon to all humanity” (Rohrer 90) was a dominant Protestant American rhetoric during the antebellum years. However, “[t]he war tested common American assumptions about divine providence and the role of the United States in God’s redemptive plan for the world“ (Rohrer 89-90). Still, doubts about the rightfulness of the war and the compliance to God’s values cannot be found in Edmonds’ text. On the contrary – she illustrates her decision as something supported my God by writing „I carried this question to the Throne of Grace and found a satisfactory answer there“ (Edmonds 18). With the notion of „Throne of Grace“, Edmonds builds an image of God as a juror and makes a reference to Hebrews 4:16. Thereby, she reproduces the contemporary Christian idea of fighting for God by fighting for the country He created. “The Civil War harnessed the energy and resources of countless northern Christians and channeled it into the cause of the Union. […] Many northern evangelicals during the Gilded Age would push to have the United States recognized officially as a “Christian Republic,” an impulse unleashed by the rhetorical fusion of God and Country during the Civil War” (Rohrer 96).

This rhetorical fusion can be found in her expression „women [who] were busily engaged in preparing all the comforts that love and patriotism could suggest” (Edmonds 19) where she establishes a close relationship between love and patriotism. A reader might assume that she portrays patriotism as something exclusively positive by mentioning it along with love. However, Edmonds, as well as other women who wrote about their experiences of serving during the Civil War, delivers a “patriotic, honest, and realistic” (Teorey 76) portrayal of the war and thereby undermines the misconceptions of the American public about military life, which were shaped by “soldier-storytellers, contemporary historians, and literary authors romanticiz[ing] the war and focus[ing] mainly on abstractions like politics, economics or troop numbers and movements” (Teorey 79). 

Edmonds illustrates that each soldier received the “new Testament” (Edmonds 20) with the inscription “Put your trust in God — and keep your powder dry” (ibid.). Here, the contemporary “fusion of God and Country during the civil war” (Rohrer 96) becomes evident again. The sheer placement of the quote on a piece of biblical writing suggests that fighting for your country also meant fighting for God. This also ties in with Manifest Destiny and the “belief in America’s unique covenant to God” (Rohrer 96) leading to the people having to fight for and protect the land given to them by God.  

At first glance, Edmonds creates a significant opposition between the paratextual heading of “MY HOME – MY DUTY” (Edmonds 18) and the contents of the related page. Readers would likely have expected an illustration of her calling of caring for her husband, family and home and not an explanation of why a woman decides on joining the military and through that leaves the female sphere, especially due to the internalized ideals of True Womanhood (Collins 87). However, the latter is exactly what follows this heading. Interestingly, Edmonds also claims that “[she] was not an American” (Edmonds 18) but still wanted to fulfill her duty of fighting for her chosen home after consulting her faith (q.v.). The linking of both concepts was well familiar to contemporary readers, for example through the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe. The third couplet and final line of the fifth stanza emphasize how one should follow Christ’s example: “As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, / While God is marching on” (Rohrer 92).

Annotated Bibliography:

Primary Sources:

Edmonds, Sarah Emma E.. Nurse and Spy in the Union Army: Comprising The Adventures and Experiences of a Woman in Hospitals, Camps and Battle-Fields. W. S. Williams & co., 1865.

Secondary Sources:

Collins, Gail. “1800-1860: True Women, Separate Spheres, and Many Emergencies” America’s Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines. Repr., Harper Perennial, 2010, pp. 85–114.
(elaborated ideas on binary opposites, separate spheres, the concept of “True Womanhood” including how women were told they should be lucky to stay in the comfortable and warm hearth of the house, illustration of the effects the industrial revolution had on the ideal concept, how safety and comfort were emphasized in insecure times, remarks about female authors’ stories about women only traveling in case of emergency)

Frank, Lisa Tendrich, Women in The American Civil War, Ed. 1, ABC-Clio, 2008.
(provides an overview of biographical facts to Sarah Emma E. Edmonds)

Rohrer, James R., “Religion in the North”, Civil War America: A Social and Cultural History with Primary Sources, edited by Maggi M. Morehouse and Zoe Trodd, Taylor & Francis Group, 2012, pp. 88-98.
(compares the northern clergy’s attitude towards the Civil War and the abolitionist movement to southern counterparts, illustrates how the experience of the Civil War shifts religious beliefs)

Teorey, Matthew, “Unmasking the Gentleman Soldier in the Memoirs of Two Cross-dressing Female US Civil War Soldiers”, War Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, edited by Donald Anderson, vol. 20, no. 1-2, United States Air Force Academy, 2008, pp. 74-93.
(illustrates the strategies, success and struggles of female soldiers during the Civil War on the example of “Frank” and “Harry”, meaning Sarah Emma Edmonds and Loreta Janeta Velazquez)

Picture Sources:

“Sarah Emma E. Edmonds.” Canada’s History, State Archives of Michigan / 02255. URL: [accessed 19.06.2022].

“Sarah Emma E. Edmonds in male attire.” Canada’s History, Clarke Historical Library / Central Michigan University. URL: [accessed 19.06.2022].

Elizabeth cady stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

To me there was no question so important as the emancipation of women from the dogmas of the past, political, religious, and social.

Elizabeth cady stangton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the most important figures in the development of women’s suffrage through her activism as a feminist and thinker (DuBois and Smith 1-2). She was born in New York in November 1815 as the daughter of the lawyer and judge Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston. From an early age, Stanton was interested in the law and had a strong sense of justice when it came to the non-existent rights of married women (Ginzberg 21).
By the age of 24, after she married the open-minded abolitionist Henry B. Stanton, she travelled together with her husband to England to attend the “Anti-Slavery Convention” (Harper 715-716). Her “wedding journey” is a rather unfitting title regarding the content she writes in this chapter of her autobiography “eighty years and more”. She met a lot of women who also were abolitionists such as Lucretia Mott with whom she sympathized a lot (DuBois 5). Especially this acquaintance strengthened her desire for equality between women and men and prompted her to organize a women’s rights convention as soon as she came back to the US. As a result, both organized the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 where the “Declaration of Independence” was signed (McConnaughy 1).


How did Elizabeth Cady Stanton‘s “wedding journey” to England influence her perspective on women’s rights and gender oppression, especially in connection with her understanding of orthodox values, in becoming one of the leading figures in the women’s rights movement in the middle of the 19th century?

As previously mentioned Stanton’s “wedding journey” is not a traditional one. It is more about her personal development from a simple accommodator to a woman with her own outlook and perspective on politics and the decision to take an active part in it. Her development can especially be seen by reading her story and the experiences she made during the “Anti-Slavery Convention”. This particular event in her chapter “wedding journey” displays a major indicator for her further role in the women’s rights movement because from beginning to end she states her admiration towards women and the importance of them participating as she sympathizes with believers of equality while using religious metaphors to ridicule the opinions of the abolitionists.

Her arrival in London is connotated by negative words, for example, “gloomy” (Stanton 78), when describing the aura and scenery of England’s capital. This dim atmosphere was changed quickly by the arrival of women which she not only states herself but makes clear in her choice of wording by using “delightful” (Stanton 78) and “charming” (Stanton 78). Through describing women’s appearance in a positive way in contrast to situations women are not present, Stanton’s stand on how she perceives women gets a cross very well. It gives the reader an idea and helps to imagine the impact their arrival of them had on her. During the convention, she associates words like “remarkable” (Stanton 80) and “leaders” (Stanton 80) with women while oppressors are accused of spreading “masculine platitudes” (Stanton 80) when talking about women’s suffrage. Stanton uses very expressive language to make clear that there is no room in her head for anything else than the emancipation of women. She chooses vocabulary like “no question” (Stanton 79) or “important” (Stanton 79) in connection to the equality of women which gives the reader the feeling of utter dedication from Mrs Stanton .

By repeating herself on the matter of disbelieving that women are not treated equally, Stanton shows how important that matter was to her, how she disbelieves what she experienced because the mistreatment of women was not an acceptable concept to her. When talking about the abolitionists she shows no understanding. She uses a lot of opposites in direct contrast to each other, for example, “were invited” (Stanton 79) followed by “were rejected” (Stanton 79), which emphasises Stanton’s shock when discovering the view of abolitionists. Also, after already highlighting this behaviour that was shown towards women she repeats herself again by drawing the conclusion of how particular women “…might have questioned the propriety of calling it a World’s Convention, when only half of humanity was represented there…” (Stanton 80). Further, she describes how she observed how women were “impatiently waiting” (Stanton 80) to be heard while sitting in “painful suspense” (Stanton 80) which fueled her desperate need to change something.

„They scorned a convention that ignored the rights of the very women who had fought, side by side with, them in the anti-slavery conflict.“

Elizabeth cady stanton

The opposition utilizes their understanding of orthodox values to support their narrow-minded view on women’s rights. This prejudice was influenced by scriptural texts which altered the understanding Elizabeth Cady Stanton had of religious values. She does not want to be a part of an institution which oppresses women. Furthermore, she uses religion in a negative sense and in sarcastic remarks to express her disbelieve by stating that women should behave themselves in the eyes of “the clergyman” (Stanton 80) to as not to “shock the heavenly hosts” (Stanton 80). Additionally, she describes how women were expected to modestly listen while sitting “in a low curtained seat like a church choir” (Stanton 81). To end her mockery of religious values she mentions it one last time as a metaphor to describe how obviously idiotic and hypocritical it is to use religion as a reason for oppressing women by comparing the burning of flesh with the severance of emotional damage of being not heard or allowed to state an opinion (Stanton 82).

On the other hand, she shows a lot of sympathy for the Garrisonians due to them supporting the same values as she does on women’s equality even though she is not part of them (Stanton 79). She feels validated by finding people who think alike. She especially mentiones George Bradburn who made her feel understood. Stanton describes that he was “standing head and shoulders above the clerical representatives” (Stanton 81) while speaking which indicates not only his remarkable appearance in a literal sense but his intellectuality she perceived while he defended women’s rights. Bradburn was convinced the abolitionists were wrong and if the bible was used to oppress women “the best thing he could do for humanity would be to bring together every Bible in the universe and make a grand bonfire of them” (Stanton 81).

Elizabeth Cady Stanton had no specific expectations nor intentions regarding their “wedding journey”, but it turned out to be a big part of her journey in her political activism. The convention adjourned with the realization that it is time for more new liberties for women. It “stung women into new thought” (Stanton 82). This led to her forming a society with Mrs Mott to fight actively for women’s rights and not just standing up for themselves but for one another.

Lucretia Mott (on the left) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (on the right)


Primary Source

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. Eighty Years and More (1815-1897); Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. First ed., European Publishing Company, 1898.

Secondary Sources

DuBois, Ellen Carol and Smith, Richard Cándida. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist As Thinker: A Reader in Documents and Essays. New York University Press, 2007.

Ginzberg, Lori D. Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life. Hill and Wang. New York, 2009.

Harper, Ida Husted. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. First ed., e-book, 1998.

Husted Harper, Ida. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton.” The American Monthly Review of Reviews: An International Magazine, vol. 26, December 1902, pp. 715-719.

McConnaughy, Corrine M. The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment. Cambridge University Press, 2013.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Margaret Fuller

At Home and Abroad

“ If any woman of genius was ever trapped by conditions of time and place, it was surely Margaret Fuller in the early 1800’s, when male superiority was assumed, […]”

William Randel (p.283)

In the American Constitution of 1789, women were not mentioned at all and were seen as naturally dependent on their husband. Just a few years later, in 1792, the first women’s rights declaration was published, and during Fuller’s lifetime in the 1830s and 40s, the activism for women’s rights thrived (DuBois 2-3).

Margaret Fuller, born in 1810, experienced an extraordinary education by her father: She learned Latin at the age of six, read Roman authors like Cicero and Virgil at the age of nine, when she also had lessons in Greek, Italian and French. Later, she also learned German and translated Goethe’s writings (Kelley 34). This “early forced intellectual feeding” was unusual for the early 19th century (Randel 283), and despite her knowledge and intellect, she was not allowed to go to college – because of her gender (Kelley 35).

When her father died in 1835, Fuller, who had already published essays, had to earn money to support her family. Therefore, she taught at several schools in European Literature, laying the focus on the intellectual potential of women, introducing “her students to models of female achievement, including the Greek poet Sappho […]” (Kelley 36). Furthermore, since 1839, she has held discussion classes for other educated women, which became famous as the “Conversations”. This intellectual institution was the female counterpart to the meetings of the Transcendentalism Club (Kelley 36-37).

This club was a “loosely allied group” of intellectuals who believed in the individual perception of truth and consciousness (Deese 151-152). Fuller was a central figure in the group and believed in change on an individual level to achieve women’s equal opportunities (Deese 152+154). Due to her intellect, Fuller caused controversial opinions about her character: Some saw her as a fallen woman, others as a True Woman (Warren 234). Another debate was whether she could be female and not intellectual or intellectual but unwomanly (Kelley 38). Seemingly, it was not possible to be both, a woman and an intellectual. Interestingly, this debate is connected to her feminist conviction: she tried to newly define the female as “separate and positive” from the male and stressed the importance of being an individual (Warren 234). The descriptions for her character traits include insecurity and ambition (Kelley 33), the ability for close friendships and deep thinking (Randel 283). 

„… the book has great literary value, as the note-book of an intelligent traveller, who had eyes to see as well as a heart to feel whatever was most noteworthy in men and things.“

The North American Review (p. 264)

In a review of her book At Home and Abroad, the critic mentions the deep-thinking character of Fuller as well. The style is described as subjective and dominated by personal experiences, which show a cultivated and “large-hearted” woman (The North American Review 261). On the other hand, the author describes her as impatient, impulsive, and stresses her talent for conversation and improvisation (The North American Review 262).

Margaret Fuller is a highly educated woman who expands her wealth of knowledge on her travels through encounters with people and an awareness of art and culture.



In the preface of At Home and Abroad, written by her brother, who also published her writings, it is distinguished between “[…] at least three classes of persons who travel in our own land and abroad“. (Fuller IV). Since Margaret Fuller moves in very educated circles, she can be classified in the third class with people “who see indeed the outward, and observe it well“ (Fuller IV).

At the beginning of chapter two, three people have a conversation. “M.” seems to be Margaret herself because she refers to her travels to Niagara in 1843.

Fuller’s thoughts wander and flow from one to the other. She assumes that readers have their own wide range of literary and classical learning. Because of this, she frequently makes innuendos that few readers will actually recognize, especially these days.

Fuller often includes Greek mythology, which is rarley understood without previous knowledge at the first reading. For instance “You would make a pretty Undine […]“ (Fuller 11) does not just refer to a female name; it refers to a mythological figure of European tradition, a water nymph fabled to be the wandering spirits of love-lorn women.

Ongoing, Fuller refers to Greek mythology with lines like “I only offered myself as a Triton“ (Fuller 11). Triton is the Greek god of the sea. She refers to herself as „boisterous Triton of the sounding shell“ (Fuller 11), which also refers to her future travels, in which she explores most areas by ship.

In 1846 Fuller moved to Europe on her own initiative. First she traveled to England and then to the Italian peninsula, where she served as a foreign correspondent for Greeley (Fuller 119-221). In England, she met two Italians who would remain prominent in her life: Giuseppi Mazzini, an Italian patriot and republican leader then in exile, and Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, whom she eventually married (Fuller VI). Fuller never attended a wedding ceremony in At Home and Abroad, so it’s unclear when or if she got married. On September 5, 1848, their son Angelo Eugene Philip Ossoli, nicknamed Angelino or Nino, was born.

A Roman republic was proclaimed in February 1849. In the war that followed, both spouses fought in the name of the republic, Giovanni as a soldier and Margaret as a nurse, but the French prevailed. The Ossolis fled into exile in Florence. That’s an example why Fuller can be described as a traveling feminist. She didn’t stay in a safe place with her son, but just like her husband went to war (Fuller 441-443).


Deese, Helen R. Massachusetts Historical Review, vol. 10, 2008, pp. 151–62. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Jun. 2022.

DuBois, Ellen Carol. “Women’s Rights, Suffrage, and Citizenship, 1789–1920.” The Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History, Oxford UP, 2018, pp. 1–22.

Fuller Ossoli, Margaret. At Home and Abroad: or, Things and Thoughts in America and Europe. Boston: Crosby, Nicholas and Company, 1856.
/files/16327/16327-h/16327-h.htm. Accessed 24 May 2022.

Kelley, Mary. “Thinking Women/Women Thinking.” Reviews in American History, vol. 23, no. 1, 1995, pp. 33–39. JSTOR, Accessed 31 May 2022.

Randel, William. American Literature, vol. 51, no. 2, 1979, pp. 282–84. JSTOR, Accessed 31 May 2022.

The North American Review, vol. 83, no. 172, 1856, pp. 261–64. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Jun. 2022.

Warren, Joyce W. The American Historical Review, vol. 100, no. 1, 1995, pp. 234–35. JSTOR, Accessed 31 May 2022.


Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art

A Narrative of the life and travels of mrs. nancy prince

Nancy Gardner was born on September 15th, 1799 in Newburyport. She was the granddaughter of a Native American woman and an African veteran of the American Revolution and the stepdaughter of an African sailor. When Nancy was young, she worked as a servant for white families or sold berries with her brother to support the family. Nancy worked in Boston for several years, where she lived in dire poverty. On September 1st, 1823 she met Nero Prince, when he arrived in Boston. One year later, on February 14th, they both got married and moved to St. Petersburg, where her husband was employed as a court servant. There she spent about nine years becoming a small-business woman and working for religious and social reform among Protestants. In 1833 Nancy Prince returned to the United States in search of a milder climate and by 1840 was widowed but at the same time she was also impressed by the possibilities for black self- determination in the wake of West Indian emancipation. She was bound for Jamaica as a missionary, equipped with a particular commitment to improving the well- being of ex-slave women and children. She always found great support in God. After her return to the United States Nancy became active in abolitionist circles, arriving at the Fifth National Women’s Rights Convention in Pihladelphia to protest against the mistreatment of slave women. Nancy Prince also established a free labor school for black orphans, who should have equal rights to education. Despite these efforts and the publication of her autobiography, Nancy never seemed able to rise above poverty, and by the year 1857 she disappeared from public notice.


Nancy Prince is her own subject and object of mobility. However, certain parameters of travel, especially religion and her ethnicity determined her journey in a way that made her envisionise a society with diasporic consciousness that lives without discrimination and equal chances in education.

Prince´s mobility was voluntary, however, her motives were drawn by labor and family or later on community. It is notable that in Prince´s lifetime, mobility was mainly asserted by the white population. In the light of Cherly Fish´s definition of `mobile subjectivity` that describes not only the shift of people in between landscapes but also the shift of institutions and culture, Prince´s later travels can be seen as a missionary (Nayar 2009). In contrast to that, her early travels were not marked by agency. When Prince grew up and felt the urge (maybe the pressure was also set externally) to take financial care of her family, her mobility was constituted by poverty. The moment that Prince took matters into her own hands and decided to go somewhere she especially chose to go was the moment that she moved out of agency. She went from poverty and an unhappy childhood to choosing her occupation and living self-determined (Nayar 2009).

Nancy Prince (1799-1857)

Self-determination and agency also show when Prince decided to go after her sister to ´safe´ her from her unhappy life working as a prostitute. It seems as if not only her sister, but her family, in general, were a great burden. In particular, the men she encountered, such as her step-dad, the new husband of her mother, or her brother, for example, who disappointed her by being abusive, being financially demanding or not caring enough. Prince´s narrative generally is characterized by negative associations with men. (Foster 2013) However, in her perception, the picture of a functioning family is conveyed when strong men take responsibility for it (Nayar 2009). She strives to be different than those men who disappointed her and draws strength from her identity as a woman to be mobile. Her experiences and being female enabled her to act divergent and be responsible. Prince gains full mobility of agency by deciding to travel without depending on her family (Foster 2013). 

Agency also is provided by the movement to Russia and being married to Nero Prince. In Russia she was free to labor in a field she choose, namely boarding children and making children’s clothes. Her engagement was not gender-stereotypical, nevertheless, it was accepted. To Nancy Prince´s surprise, also her skin color did not matter in St. Petersburg.

“ […] there was no prejudice against color; there were there all casts, and the people of all nations, each in their place“

During her time in Russia, Prince also came into contact with religious actions that she did not agree with and questioned certain gender- or class-based practices. Realizing that she was not able to change society, especially because of political and social disagreements, Prince decided to move back to the United States. Again, we can detect mobility of agency, because she does not rely on men (her husband for instance) anymore and travels solely for her motives. Back in her home country, Prince tried to implement her plan to help in creating a society with diasporic consciousness. She founded a community that was supposed to take care of African-American children. Unfortunately, the community did not last. Ultimately, she went to Jamaica and found racial and social injustices. This time she decided to do something about it and planned on establishing Free labor schools for girls. In Jamaica Prince also comes into contact with the so-called Maroons. From her perspective, their way of living displays a model of a utopian society whose members are black women and men (former slaves) who are independent and do not need white authorities (Foster 2013). For her, mobility plays a huge role in becoming independent. In Prince´s perception, the help of God also is required to achieve equality and independence. Throughout the book, Prince often critically questions the ways Christianity is practiced.

Through traveling Nancy Prince saw that freedom was not available for black women in the same way it was for white women. Especially through the tensions between woman as a private domestic subject and woman as a public reformer, between the textual image of a black woman who is Jamaican and American at the same time, coming home to her Jamaican family and in the end between individual desire and duty to community, visualizes the challenges Nancy Prince has to cope with. God and her faith in it were always by her side and gave her the support that she needed.Of course, obstacles such as discrimination did not make her life any easier, but she published her autobiography to show that she is not only able to work, but is also a traveler, woman, missionary or widow who advocates equal education for everyone. 


Andrews, Larry. “TWO BLACK WOMEN IN RUSSIA: TACIT RACIAL IDENTITY AND THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT.” CLA Journal, vol. 52, no. 4, 2009, pp. 327–52. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Gunning, Sandra. “Nancy Prince and the Politics of Mobility, Home and Diasporic (Mis)Identification.” American Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 1, 2001, pp. 32–69. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Kalous, Isabel. Black Travel Writing: Contemporary Narratives of Travel to Africa by African American and Black British Authors, transcript Verlag, 2021. pp. 31-48.

Prince, Nancy. A Narrative of The Life And Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince. WM. A. HALL, 1853.


Cover image:

Nancy Prince:

Harriet jacobs: Incidents in the life of a slave girl (1861)

“Reader, be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts.“

(Jacobs 1861 Preface)

Under the pseudonym ‘Linda Brent’, Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) wrote an autobiography documenting her horrific life with all injustices she had to face starting at a young age. Sexual abuse, extreme cruelty and exploitation forced her into hiding in a parochial attic for seven years until she was able to travel North. 

Harriet Jacobs’s only known formal portrait

Her life is divided into four main phases: enslavement, hiding, traveling and eventually freedom, where she successfully publishes ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ in 1861.
In ILSG, Brent describes her circumstances growing up in Edenton, which are very similar to many other enslaved African American women. In comparison to other enslaved women during that period, Brent was one of the few who survived this tragic time in American history and was able not just to achieve her and her children’s freedom, but “she made her life representative of the struggle for liberation” (Yellin 2004).
Having lost her mother at age six and her caring mistress at twelve, her life turned around to the worst, experiencing abuse from her new home. When she got pregnant twice by another man from her town, she was sent to a Plantation. After being enslaved for 22 years, she escapes from the Plantation, leading her into hiding. After seven years and a little help from her friends, she gets on a boat to Philadelphia escaping the South. Later on, in New York, she becomes a nursemaid for the Bruce family, who take her to England and eventually, after the Fugitive Slave Law made Brent’s life harder as slaves need to get reunited with their legal owners even when they are in a free State (Manfra 2008), Mrs. Bruce purchases Brent for the good making her free.The book took a great interest in developing female and minority writers. “Little did she know that she would not only testify about slavery’s horrors based on her own life, but she would also participate in finding solutions for other newly emancipated people” (Whitacre 2019).

Jacobs‘ barrier to freedom

Linda Brent struggles to achieve the goals of 
”True Womanhood“ which have been denied to her due to her life in enslavement and during her journey out of it. To achieve those ideals is part of her quest for freedom.

Linda Brent is for the most time of her life an enslaved person and additionally a person of color which makes her achieving the ideals of “True Womanhood” impossible, since those are reserved for white-middle-class-women. “Black woman, especially slaves in the South, usually had no chance to acquire it all” (Schulze 2009). Nevertheless Brent is constantly trying to fulfill the requirements because she connects this with her personal freedom.

One of the most important aspects of the concept of “True Womanhood” is purity. At a fairly young age, Brent gets confronted with troubles surrounding this aspect. Her master, Dr. Flint, desires a physical relationship with her but she denies his request. After numerous failed attempts, Flint offers “to make a lady out of [her]” (Jacobs 82), offering Brent an opportunity to escape slavery. Following her “pure principles” (83), she denies this offer, too. She envies those women who are free to choose their partners and whose purity has been protected. The circumstances and influences resulting of her enslavement forced her to enter a sexual relationship with another man. “I was struggling alone in the powerful grasp of the demon Slavery; and the monster proved too strong for me” (84). Her two children are a result of this relationship and proof of her defeat in this aspect, filling her with shame and regret.

Another important aspect is the concept of separate spheres. During her travels, there are multiple occasions where this concept is challenged. During her trip to New York, Brent is not allowed to travel in a first class wagon as they are reserved for white people. Instead, she is transported in “a large, rough car” (248) which was “crowded with people” (248). In those wagons, smoking and drinking is allowed and men as well as women and children are staying side by side. Separate spheres are not being established. Brent describes this part of her travel as “a very disagreeable ride” (248). “Her experience in the North is mostly rife with racial segregation and humiliation” (Biswas 2015). Multiple occasions follow in which Brent is treated in regard to her skin color and thereby differently compared to white women. The discrimination she experiences limits her possibilities for achieving the goals of “True Womanhood”. Furthermore she is limited in her personal freedom because of that. It has to be mentioned, that the discrimination Brent faces is not just because of her skin color but additionally, because she is an enslaved person. Later on, Brent visits England. “The English people, never having experienced institution of slavery, treat her based on her position, not the colour of her skin” (Biswas 2015).  It is the first time Brent is confronted with “pure, unadulterated freedom” (275) which is her ultimate goal. She describes this as an extremely relieving event which proves that overcoming racial discrimination is a step towards her definition of freedom. “Her history as a slave does not follow her around in England” (Biswas 2015), so Brent feels more free than ever.

As a consequence of her escape, Brent disregards the ideals of domesticity and submissiveness inevitably. After her escape, her “family” searches for her, especially Dr. Flint, and asks her to return to them. “We all sympathize with you in your unfortunate condition, and are ready to do all in our power to make you contented and happy.” (258) states one letter addressed to Brent. The same letter claims that Brent should return to her “family” because according to them she was free the whole time and never treated as an enslaved person. Despite the wish of the family she does not return.

In the end, Brent considers herself and both of her children as free. „We are as free from the power of slaveholders as are the white people of the north“ (302). She achieved her freedom not through marriage. Brent freed herself from her life in enslavement and discrimination, trying to compete with ideals which are  almost exclusively connected to white-middle-class-women. Regardless of that Brent still has not reached her ultimate goal. „The dream of my life is not yet realized“ (302). She hopes for a better future for her children, a future with complete equality and therefore a future without slavery.

Jacobs‘ historic marker Edenton, NC


Jacobs, Harriet (1861): Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Clydesdale Classics.

Secondary Sources

Biswas, Swagata. „Reading Race, Class and Gender in Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl“. International Journal of English Language, Literature and Humanities, Vol.3, No.2, 2015,                 
→ discrimination in ILSG

Manfra, Meghan M. A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. North Carolina State University. Penguin Group, 2008.
→ character list, synopsis, historical setting, biography of Jacobs

Schulze, Daniela. Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The Question of True Womanhood – Gender and Race Conventions. München, GRIN Verlag, 2009.
→ true womanhood in ILSG

Whitacre, Paula Tarnapol. „Harriet Jacobs: Working for Freedpeople in Civil War Alexandria“. Journal of the Civil War Era, 16 July 2019,

Yellin, Jean Fagan. Harriet Jacobs. A Life. The Remarkable Adventures of the Woman Who Wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Basic Civitas Books, 2004.
→ interpretation of Jacobs’ public and private life

Sarah F. Wakefield—“Six Weeks In The Sioux Tepees: A Narrative Of Indian Captivity“

In August of 1862, Sarah Wakefield and her two children were captured by a group of Dakotas, members of the Indigenous Sioux nation residing along the Minnesota river, as part of the Sioux’ resistance against the United States’ ongoing dispossession of their land and violence against their people. For several years prior to her captivity, Wakefield had been accompanying her husband John in Minnesota, where he worked as a physician for the Sioux. Wakefield’s “Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees: A Narrative of Indian Captivity” shows not only the unique way in which she perceived the Indigenous people she lived among, but also what those depictions reveal about her own identity as a white Christian woman of the 19th century.


Territory of the Sioux before white settlers (green)
vs. Sioux reservation today (orange)

Typically, captivity narratives were used to defame Native Americans, largely portraying them as “savages” who pose a threat to the expanding Western civilization and especially to the White Woman representing purity and fertility. This caricature of Indigenous people served as a means to justify their elimination to the public, ridding them of any empathy towards people who allegedly rape their women and endanger their future (Kolodny 192). The Sioux tribes, for instance, had been expelled from their land and starved out by white settlers long before the “war” of 1862, all under the guise of protecting proper Christian values, the necessity of which was propagated in various captivity tales.

During her time spent as a captive of the Sioux, Sarah Wakefield learned to develop an understanding and empathy for a select few of them, which ultimately led her to question her world view and advocate for them. However, her narrative still reveals truths about her identity that are built upon Christianity and white supremacy.

Sarah Wakefield’s perspective differs somewhat from the established perception of Native Americans as usually depicted in captivity tales. Unlike the majority of white Americans in the 19th century, she engages with some of the Sioux on a level that is equal to her interactions with other white people, stating that they were “very kind, good people” (Wakefield 61). After being protected and aided by quite a few of the Natives during the six weeks of her captivity, she expresses her gratitude, pointing out that she believed to be “indebted to those friendly Indians for [her] life and honor” (81). Especially Chaska, one member of the Dakota tribe who had first saved her from death and then proceeded to support her, is mentioned a number of times, emphasizing Wakefield’s gratitude and the special bond she had with him. Her reaction to him being imprisoned after the white settlers defeated the Sioux shows her deep appreciation for him and his kind acts: “I know that I did what was right, that my feelings were only those of gratitude toward my preserver,” (123) she offers as an explanation for the lengths she went to defend him in court. Moreover, she finds herself realizing that some of the Natives do show good, Christian morals, unlike some of the white people she would have associated herself with without question before—namely those who wrongfully executed Chaska despite assuring Wakefield he would be spared after the Sioux‘ imprisonment. This leads to her questioning the authorities and further alienates her from her own people. She clearly distances herself from the government, and ultimately her own American identity is questioned: “It has caused me to feel very unkindly towards my own people” (123). Thus, it is evident that Wakefield ends up prioritizing Christian morals, making them a major part of her identity construction.

Sarah F. Wakefield (1829-99)

Yet all of this is not to say that Wakefield did not adhere to prejudiced beliefs about Native Americans and notions of her own people’s superiority. On the contrary—it is clear that her support for the Sioux is deeply conditional. In the beginning of her stay with them, she refers to them by various derogatory terms that do not need to be repeated, expecting them all to be violent towards her and other white people, and being surprised when many of them are kind to her. She believes the several acts of kindness that the Sioux show her to stem from an unexpected subscription to Christianity on their part, and it is only then that Wakefield learns to respect them “as if they were whites” (61). At one point she states, “Many persons say the Indian cannot be civilized. I think they can, but did not know it until I lived among them.” (57), which shows her belief that there is a need for Indigenous people to be ‘civilized’ in the first place, that their Westernization is a right and just cause. She pushes the dichotomy of ‘civilized’ versus “wild man” (64), ultimately proving that her upbringing as a rich, white Christian woman instilled some sense of superiority over others into her. What is remarkable about Wakefield, however, is that she does not use her immense privilege over the Sioux against them, instead making great efforts to save Chaska from execution despite that putting her own reputation at risk. She explains, “I never could love a savage, although I could respect any or all that might befriend me, and I would willingly do everything in my power to benefit those that were so kind to me in my hour of need.” (117) Coming from a woman in her position, these actions can in no way be taken for granted and show that perhaps her journey has altered some aspects of her identity.

In conclusion, Wakefield’s accounts of the Sioux as well as her own identity constructions appear to be profoundly contradictory. While she cherishes the graciousness and humanity of those that treat her kindly, at the same time she looks down upon others who do not appear ‘civilized’ and Christian enough to her. It is these same Christian standards, however, that she holds her government to as well, causing her to distance herself from her own people’s lack of morality, which is a decidedly rare voice for the time.


Akers, Donna L. “Indigenous Nations and the United States.” The Cambridge History of America and the World: Volume 2: 1812–1900, edited by Jay Sexton and Kristin Hoganson, vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp. 60–79.
   → explains settler colonialism, dispossession and subjugation of Native peoples 

Ciani, Kyle E. Ethnohistory, vol. 46, no. 1, 1999, pp. 192–95. JSTOR, Accessed 28 May 2022
→ analysis of how Wakefield defies the idea of “true womanhood” and typical captivity narratives by portraying some of her captors in a positive light and holding her government accountable

Fiorentino, Daniele. The Journal of American History, vol. 86, no. 4, 2000, pp. 1787– 89. JSTOR, Accessed 28 May 2022.

Kolodny, Annette. “Among the Indians: The Uses of Captivity.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 3/4, 1993, pp. 184–95. JSTOR, Accessed 28 May 2022. 
  → information on captivity tales and how they propagated negative notions of Indigenous peoples

Wakefield, Sarah F., and June Namias. Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees: A Narrative of Indian Captivity. University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.
   → Editor’s introduction provides insights into the Dakota War of 1862 and Sarah Wakefield’s life


Cover image:

Sarah F. Wakefield:

Sioux territory:

Zitkala-Ša – Living between Two worlds

 I was neither a wee girl nor a tall one ; neither a wild Indian nor a tame one. This deplorable situation was the effect of my brief course in the East, and the unsatisfactory “ teenth ” in a girl’s years.


Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) was born in 1876, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Her father was a (white) man named William Felker, who abandoned the family before Zitkala-Ša was born and her mother was Ellen Tate Iyohinwin Simmons, a Yankton-Dakota woman. Zitkala-Ša grew up in a purely Indian environment. At the age of eight she left the reservation to attend the White’s Manual Labor Institute, a missionary boarding school located in Wabash, Indiana. Michael Coleman characterises the feelings of Native American children attending these schools with: „Ignorant of English and with emotions and motivations ranging from obedience to fear to curiosity to desires for white goods and an easier life, they set off into an almost totally alien world.“ (31) Donna L. Akers argues that “ […] these schools sought to destroy Indigenous ways of life, belief systems, languages, and spiritual practices by removing Indigenous children from their families and homes […] After four years of education she went back to the Pine Ridge Reservation. After her graduation she decided to attend Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana where she started to write and take part in oratorical contests. In the following years of her life she taught music to children, wrote articles in numerous magazines and was politically active. She was the secretary of the Society of American Indians (SAI) and corresponded with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which she often criticised. With this work she tried to help Indian Americans to regain their rights to their cultural and tribal identity. Zitkala-Ša lived in a time, where native land was stolen, native people died of starvation and sickness due to American policies regarding natives and discrimination was still widespread through the country. Zitkala-Ša died on January 26, 1938, in Washington, D.C.

The following Chapter of this blog entry will take a closer look at „Four strange summers“ from the article „The School Days of an Indian Girl published in February, 1900. The analysis will be about the inner-conflict of Zitkala-Ša regarding her national identity. This inner conflict is about her struggle to identify with neither American culture nor Indian culture, making her an outcast to both. This is the result of the attempt to civilise Indian people and their cultures.

When cultures compete within

“ During this time I seemed to hang in the heart of chaos, beyond the touch or voice of human aid.“

(Zitkala-Ša, 191)
Missionary boarding school

This chapter is riddled with passages that describe a deep inner-conflict of her national identity. Zitkala-Ša calls it „hang[ing] in the heart of chaos“ (…) where no one could help her. Her family can’t quite understand her problems, because her brother is ten years older than her and her mother was never inside of a boarding school. Dexter Fisher goes even further and argues that her relatives were „highly suspect of her“ (230) „In their minds she had abandoned […] the Indian way of life by getting an education in the white man’s world.“ (Fisher,230) She goes on to say that „even nature seemed to have no place for me“ (Zitkala-Ša, 191). This is an important note because nature was sacred to native Americans because they believed that they „were inseparable from their lands“ (Akers, 61) and connected to nature as deeply as to their tribe. This can be traced back to her time at the boarding school. There she had to work everyday under hard conditions, agonising rules and punishment. Akers describes this very fitting: „This regimented control was the antithesis of the rhythms of the natural world that had formerly shaped their lives.“ (Akers, 74) Zitkala-Ša even says in the text, that this situation is due to her „brief course in the East […] (Zitkala-Ša, 191) Even when she rides her brothers pony she feels unsatisfied. She calls her riding „insignificant“ and „reckless“ (Zitkala-Ša ,191) When reading this passage it seems like Zitkala-Sa wants to break free and re-connect to her cultural roots.

After she stops riding she states that „there was an unrest gnawing at my heart“ (Zitkala-Ša,191). After being told by her brother that she can’t attend a party with him and seeing other young people who attended school she cries and calls out her differences to these people. That they were „no more young braves in blankets […] nor Indian maids with pretty painted cheeks.“ (Zitkala-Ša,191) She describes their „civilised“ clothing, that they talk in English and that she can’t seem to fit in . Sandra Kumamoto Stanley states: “ […] she realizes that she no longer belongs in either her mother’s or the missionary’s world. Caught between both cultures, she must face the fact that she is a representative of both the ethnographic self and the radical other. (67) When she sobs by her mother she hands her the bible, the „white-mans papers“. In the text she expresses her will to burn the book and describes herself as „enraged“. She can’t find find identification in a book she was forced to read from a culture which is forced upon her. But because she is not accepted in either her family nor the „white-mans world“ she is in a „constant conflict between tradition and acculturation“ (Fisher, 231)

Later in the text Zitkala-Ša hears her mother crying and calling for help from her brothers spirits. She is crying because her daughter has this inner-conflict, that she can’t find balance in an Indian way of life. Evidence for this is, that Zitkala-Ša, after she had left for college, „never was reconciled with her mother.“ (Fisher, 233) To conclude this analysis one could argue like Deborah Welsh that Zitkala-Ša felt „pulled toward the Anglo world.“ (8), because of her decision to go to college or learn the violin, but this is not entirely on her. The emergence of this „pull“ was the try to „kill the Indian, save the man“, the motto of Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of the system „boarding school“. This try created confused children with inner-conflicts of competing cultures. But not even this stopped Zitkala-Ša from excelling in music, art but most importantly in her work as an activist. A quote from Donna L. Akers will be a great closing argument for this blog entry. „But the US desire to “kill the Indian, save the man,” did not succeed completely, as Indigenous people struggled to maintain and transmit their distinct world views and belief systems. Indigenous peoples have spent decades rebuilding their languages, decolonizing their histories, and reviving the valuable cultural heritage that the United States sought to destroy.“ (77)

Bibliography and Sources

Akers, Donna L. “Indigenous Nations and the United States.” The Cambridge History of America and the World: Volume 2: 1812– 1900, edited by Jay Sexton and Kristin Hoganson, vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp. 60–79. https:// Accessed 19 May 2022

Fisher, Dexter. “Zitkala Sa: The Evolution of a Writer.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 3, 1979, pp. 229–38. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Henderson, Melessa Renee, Curtright, Lauren. Gertrude Bonnin Zitkala-Ša. Voices from the Gaps, University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy, 1997 Accessed 19 May 2022.

Stanley, Sandra Kumamoto. “Claiming a Native American Identity: Zitkala-Sa and Autobiographical Strategies.” Pacific Coast Philology, vol. 29, no. 1, 1994, pp. 64–69. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Susag, Dorothea M. “Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin): A Power(Full) Literary Voice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, vol. 5, no. 4, 1993, pp. 3–24. JSTOR, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Zitkala-S͏̈a. The School Days of an Indian Girl / Zitkala-Sa. University of Virginia Library, 1996, pp. 191-192 EBSCOhost, Accessed 29 May 2022.

Sources for Pictures

Narcissa Whitman and her Westward Mission

After years of inhabiting only trappers, fur traders and natives, the newly obtained Oregon Territory met its first American settlers in the 1830s, among them Narcissa Whitman and her husband Marcus, a doctor. With the intention of converting the Indigenous people, they established a mission on the lands of the Cayuse tribe, who, at first, met them with interest. The letters Whitman wrote do not only express the American self-concept, but also how she conformed to true womanhood while adjusting to her live in the western territory.

„Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you“

MATTHEW 28:19-20

Narcissa Prentiss was born in 1808 as one of nine children. She spent her whole childhood in Prattsburgh, New York. As a young adult she became enthralled with God and Christianity due to the Second Great Awakening which took place from the 1790s to the 1840s. It “marked a reemergence of religious enthusiasm, as millions of Americans were „born again“ in emotionally-charged revival meetings. […] It was in this era that the claim that the United States is a „Christian nation“ first seriously took root” (Stone 1307). Narcissa decided to become a missionary and spread the word of God. After a year of education and preparation she got married to Dr. Marcus Whitman in 1836 and only one month after their wedding they, along with another married couple, started their journey to the West on the Oregon Trail. The Whitmans wanted “to devote their lives to saving souls among the heathen” (Norton 111). Narcissa kept a journal, writing down her own experiences on their travels. They eventually settled down near Fort Walla Walla and started the Whitman Mission close to the Native American tribe of the Cayuse in 1837. Narcissa Whitman soon gave birth to her only biological daughter, who later drowned in the river at age two.

To stay in contact with her parents, her eight siblings and friends, Narcissa started writing letters. She informed them about her days, the landscape, her work, things that bothered her and so on in a very emotional and chatty way. Her letters were meant to be private, although she probably was aware that her family was showing them around. There were huge time gaps between the letters because they took months to arrive, and they were rather long to keep her family up to date with everything that happened. Her sisters donated them in 1894, where they were released for the public.

A lot of her letters give a very good insight on how Narcissa Whitman was feeling. She seemed to be quite homesick, trying to convince her family in several letters to come visit and even live with her. She also tried to recruit her sister Jane and her brother-in-law to work for the mission as teachers. Narcissa was alone a lot. Her husband whom she called her “earthly protector” (Whitman 55) was always busy and traveled a lot. Sometimes he was gone for months. Several health issues made her life in the West even harder. She was sick a lot. One time it was so severe it “threatened almost immediate death” (Whitman 56). In these times she found relieve in her beliefs. Whitman also wrote about her relationship with the Native Americans. Her parents seemed to fear them, but she assured them in one of her last letters that “they never were more quiet and peaceful than now`, and appear to be getting more so” (Whitman 87).

“Bringing up a family of children in a heathen land, where every influence tends to degrade rather than elevate, requires no small measure of faith and patience, as well as great carefulness and prayerful watchfulness”


Whitman saw her purpose in “the care of so many immortal souls to train up for God” (Whitman  75)– or rather to force her Christian believes upon the Cayuse people with no regards and understanding of their culture. The territory, which they had chosen for their mission, was unsafe for growing masses of Protestant settlers. Even before the coinage of the term Manifest Destiny in the 1840s, the ideology behind it had already cultivated the minds of the young American nation. The land (re-)discovered by Americans was given to them by God, and therefore his word had to spread out from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, or even further. The westward expansion was seen as necessary in order for the nation to thrive and went hand in hand with the work of missionary travelers. 

Missions into the new territories to convert the indigenous North Americans were considered as public welfare. The eurocentric view was propagated that especially women could only live freely and safely in Christianized countries. Male and female missionaries soon set out to new territories, including Oregon. Religious work could be a liberation for single women, giving them the feeling of importance and a purpose outside home and family. The wives of missionaries, on the contrary, were still supposed to keep to their homes. They embodied western womanhood, which they expected would then transfer onto the native women and girls through their work. As educators, and “guardian[s] of American democracy” (Georgi-Findlay 239), they were set on promoting their standards. 

A picture of the Sager family. Among them are most of the altogether eleven orphans the Whitmans adopted.

Narcissa Whitman, too, worked as a teacher on the missionary settlement of Waiilatpu. She voiced her conviction in the necessity and success of the Whitman Mission in her letters repeatedly. However, her bible studies did not bear as much fruit as she might have wished. Therefore, she concentrated her efforts on preparing the settlement for the white homesteaders and instructing her eleven adopted children in the “great truths of Christianity” (Whitman 79). Her letters revealed her to be a hard-working and refined housewife, who would occasionally share her parenting advice with her sisters. However, her letters also express her firm believe in populating the northwest of the continent with Protestants – preferably those who did not need to be converted.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman’s mission failed, given their lack of understanding for the Cayuse traditions. Communication failed between the two parties, because the Whitmans made little effort in learning their language and concepts of Christianity, like the Heaven and sin, did not exist the Cayuse vocabulary. The tribe saw no need in converting. Incoming settlers brought a measles epidemic over the natives, which led to the death of many tribe members. Years of injustice climaxed in November 1847, when the Cayuse murders Narcissa, her husband and twelve other people of the mission. The tribe suspected them and especially Dr. Whitman to actively let their people die of the sickness. “The murders became known as the Whitman Massacre” (Norton 108).


Whitman, Narcissa: Mrs. Whitman’s Letters 1843-1847

Secondary Literature:

Georgi-Findlay, Brigitte: The frontiers of women’s writing: women’s narratives and the rhetoric of westward expansion.Tucson University of Arizona Press, 1996.

Heidler, Jeanne T. „Manifest Destiny.“

Merk, Frederick. Manifest destiny and mission in American History: a reinterpretation. New York, New York Vintage Books, 1966.

Norton, Melanie J. and Booss, John: “Missionaries, measles, and manuscripts: revisiting the Whitman tragedy.” Journal of the Medical Library Association, Vol 107, No.1, 2019, pp. 108-113.

Stone, Geoffrey R. “The Second Great Awakening: A Christian Nation.” Georgie State University Law Review, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2010, pp. 1305-1334.

Welter, Barbara. “She Hath Done What She Could: Protestant Women’s Missionary Careers in Nineteenth-Century America,” American Quarterly, Vol.30, No. 3, 1978, pp. 624-638.


Narcissa Whitman

Nooning on the Platte

Sager Family

Map of the Whitman Mission Waiilatpu—Waiilatpu

New world meets old world

by Andrea Beiche and Elya Wojciechowski


Under the alias “A Lady Of New York”, the female author Sarah Rogers Haight born in 1808 published her first travel report, called: “Letters from the Old World” in 1840. After finishing her education at the best girls’ school in New York, the young lady married the travel affinitive New Yorker Richard K. Haights, whom she joined later on his travels. Inspired by his tales, she began writing her own adventures down. We will take a closer look now at her already mentioned first story. Together with her husband, she started her journey all the way from New England to Odessa and from there on taking a ship down to the Old World, speaking of north african countires, such as egypt. Their adventure already has a rough start with the plague at Odessa leading to a ship quarantine on their way to turkey. In further detail, Mrs. Haights describes this and many other events of her trip in the 23 letters of her book, as well as her journey back home. She captures her own thoughts, point of view and experiences in the East. Reading the report, you get an insight of an american women in the 19th century, her beliefs, ideology and opinion on the world.

painting of Sarah Rogers Haight

Moving on, I will give you a brief historical background of New England and north africa’s travel conditions at Sarah Haight’s lifetime. “By 1830 the harbors (of New England) were yielding in importance to the waterfalls. Shipping and commerce were giving way to manufacturing, and the rural towns of New England, which had been the foundations of her society and culture, were passing into a decline as the growing families moved to the manufacturing towns, to the cities, or to the West.” (Turner)  By 1840, “were already more than 3,000 miles of track in the United States, including more than 400 miles in New England. Railroads came to dominate overland transportation so completely that a half century after 1830 it had been largely forgotten that the roads, which then carried mostly local traffic, once had been important arteries of commerce.” (Parks)

In the Old World, as Sarah Haights would say, on the other hand, “The French capture of Algiers in 1830, followed by the Ottoman reoccupation of Tripoli in 1835, rudely interrupted the attempts of North Africa’s rulers to follow the example of Muḥammad ʿAlī, the pasha of Egypt, and increase their power along European lines. Of the four powers in North Africa at the beginning of the 19th century, only Tunis and Morocco survived as independent states into the second half of the century to encounter the heavy pressures that Europe then brought to bear on the region for free trade and legal reform, measures originally leveled against the Ottoman Empire and Egypt.” (Brett)

map of the Old World in 1840


Sarah Rogers Haight gets deeply connected with her own beliefs and faces her own former arrogance about traveling to Egypt S. 273-278

What effect does traveling to one of the countries with the most well known ancient history do to a woman of the new world? 

Sarah Rogers Haight was a woman of the New World. She has prepared herself months in advance of her departure to sail to the countries of the old world. Even though very effectively researching the history of ancient Egypt (p. 273) she did not at the time of her travel feel prepared for what she witnessed. Throughout the passages from page 273 to 278 Sarah Haight reflects on her personal thoughts she had before coming along on this traveling journey. She herself felt like she was naive, as a woman who grew up in the country with the most growth at the time, with all the ideological and philosophical aspects of femininity and her education. She describes how incredible it is to travel to Egypt as it is so ancient in comparison to the United States that first when she read books in her preparation she thought the pictures as well as the descriptions were exaggerated (p. 273). Not only was Sarah Haight shocked by all the murals and monuments from the times of the Pharaohs but also did she associate a big part of her own life with her travel to Egypt, the bible and Christianity. In the moment she talks about Moses freeing the folk who went to the promised land she takes onto something she herself believes in and puts a lot of faith in. SHe herself is very opinionated which is rare for women in her time as she also is one of the earliest female writers who published their work. Piety is a big part of the good American Housewife in the midst of the 19th century so she was abashed by the surroundings she found yet it did not stop her from having a lot to say about the arrogance of the average traveler and feel pitiful towards them (p. 275).  With what she found Haight also criticized how some authors have tried to connect biblical stories to ancient egyptian mythology, defending her beliefs “ he pretends to prove, by the astrological map of the celestial sphere, that the whole history of the fall of man a great mediator, a final judge, a future savior “ (p. 277).

The author very much respects the history of Egypt saying Greece sprung from it and Rome tried to merely imitate Egypts grace in its days (p. 276). The way she portrays her sights and adventures is a lush selection of detailed descriptions of histories or places. ‘’Egypt, sounded by the victorious Amru over the Arabian hills, wonderful and extraordinary as it is in itself, must only be considered as the mere pivot on which turns the whole circle of historical events, from the erection of the first altar on the Mount of Ararat, to the last recorded incident on the page of history.“ (p. 275). Haight feels not only heavily connected but finds her heritage or even the heritage of a lot of humanity in there from over seventeen thousand years ago as some sites date back. Not only is she thinking ahead of her time but also seems to have a more natural effect from the traveling which brightens her horizon but does not fully detach her from her true womanhood protestant christian upbringing. 

The old world is imprinting heritage history and understanding to the woman of the new world of growth, profit and surplus.