Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The 'Emancipated Ladies' of America in the Travel Writing of Fredrika Bremer and Alexandra Gripenberg

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The 'Emancipated Ladies' of America in the Travel Writing of Fredrika Bremer and Alexandra Gripenberg

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Swedish novelist Fredrika Bremer (1801-1865) and the Finnish Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg (1857-1913), both active women's rights advocates who toured in the United States in the 1850s and 1880s, respectively, used their travel writing as a powerful medium in promoting their ideological agendas. They articulated their gender politics through presenting American women as pioneers, leaders in women's suffrage and models of female emancipation. Women's activism in America was perceptible not only in the formally organized women's rights movement but also in various reform movements (abolitionism, temperance, and labor movements) that contributed to women's suffrage on a worldwide scale. As the century progressed, the women's rights movement grew into an international collaboration of people and associations dedicated to a common cause. The travel writing of Bremer and Gripenberg offers a view of the century plagued by anxieties about gender, while it serves to advance the writer's ideological beliefs. Thus, in addition to using fictional works and journalism to advance women's causes, Bremer and Gripenberg instrumentalized their travels as they addressed their audience of like-minded women in their own countries--as well as abroad--informing, influencing, and empowering them. Indeed, as scholar Jennifer Steadman suggests, "representations of female travellers, like their travel texts, were gaining larger audience and were therefore impacting cultural ideas about women, travel, national identity, and citizenship" (60). It can be argued that following the model set by the "emancipated ladies" of America, (1) women's rights advocates in Europe, like Bremer and Gripenberg, together with international women's associations whose concern was women's strive for independence, contributed to a universal suffrage reform in such countries as Finland, leading women towards inclusion in full citizenship.

Keywords: multidisciplinary, travel writing, women's emancipation, transatlantic women, Finland

"I saw several of the 'emancipated ladies,' as they are called; such, for instance, as deliver public lectures, speak in public at anti-slavery meetings, etc. One of these struck me from the picturesque beauty of her figure and head, her pale noble countenance and rich golden hair, together with the perfect gentleness and womanliness of her whole demeanor and conversation, united to manly force of will and conviction." (Bremer 1:144)

The Swedish novelist and women's rights advocate, Fredrika Bremer (1801-1865), wrote this passage from Boston in January 1850, during her tour of antebellum America. Nineteenth-century American women--female activists and leaders of various American organizations dedicated to furthering women's rights--were of great interest to her, and subsequently, nearly forty years later, to the Finnish Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg (1857-1913). In the course of their extensive American tours, both Nordic writers met many local women whose lives were dedicated to advancing women's rights within women's suffrage, abolition, and temperance movements. Both Bremer and Gripenberg used their travel writing as a powerful medium in promoting their ideological agendas. Thus, in addition to using fictional works, journalism, and personal correspondence to advance women's emancipation, they instrumentalized their travels as they addressed their audience of like-minded women in their own countries--as well as abroad--informing, influencing, and empowering them. They articulated their gender politics through presenting American women as models of emancipated female leaders. As scholar Jennifer Steadman suggests, "representations of female travellers, like their travel texts, were gaining larger audience and were therefore impacting cultural ideas about women, travel, national identity, and citizenship" (60). In Bremer's travel letters, published in 1853, America-or the New World--is presented as taking the first steps towards improving educational and career opportunities for women, whereas Gripenberg's travel book from 1889 introduces women who already were accomplished professionals, held leadership positions and were internationally involved in organized women's associations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.