Travels of the Mind
THE Clews and Dexter families had planned to travel together in Europe in the summer of 1894. Sam's death cast a pall over what they had all expected to be a golden summer. Elsie followed her mother dutifully around Fontainbleu, Barbizon, London, and Paris and could hardly endure what a friend referred to ironically as her "new double role--student and shopper." After this dreary summer she refused to play the role of social companion her mother wanted of her: the following summer, preceding her final year at college, she did not go to Europe on the excuse that she had to study; in 1896, after her graduation, she went on her own terms, spending the entire Paris visit in the Bibliotéque Nationale; in 1897 her mother traveled complainingly alone; and except for a European trip in 1902 and a trip to the Philippines, Japan, and China in 1905 with her husband, Elsie's travels were for many years defiantly work-oriented and North American.1
The one bright spot of the dreadful 1894 summer was her growing friendship with Sam's mother and sister, Josephine and Katharine Dexter. Josephine Dexter became Elsie's "summer mother" when the Dexters returned to the United States at the end of 1895. Mrs. Dexter was an intelligent and sophisticated woman whose friends included the actress Ellen Terry and the writers Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Fields; but she was also sentimental and moralistic in the late-nineteenth-century feminine mode, and her influence waned as Elsie became more assured in her critique of American women's lives. In fact, she became an exemplar of the repressive morality of the Elders in Elsie's later writing.
Elsie's friendship with Katharine Dexter was more important and longer-lasting. A year younger than Elsie, Katharine shared her rebellion against women's restricted roles and was anxious to begin work toward a science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sam's death, like that of Robert Clews for Elsie, post-