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The Englishwoman in America

Isabella L. Bird

Book Overview: 

Isabella Bird travels abroad in Canada and the United States in the 1850s. As an Englishwoman and a lone female, she travels as far as Chicago, Prince Edward Island, and Cincinnati. Her observations on the trials and tribulations of the journeys are astute, if formed by her place and time in history. Adventures with pickpockets, omnibuses, cholera, and rat invested hotels deter her not.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .t before, sprang out of their berths and hastily huddled on their clothes; mothers caught hold of their infants with a convulsive grasp; some screamed, others sat down in apathy, while not a few addressed agonised supplications to that God, too often neglected in times of health and safety, to save them in their supposed extremity.

Crash went the lamp, which was suspended from the ceiling, as a huge wave struck the ship, making her reel and stagger, and shrieks of terror followed this event, which left us in almost total darkness. Rush came another heavy wave, sweeping up the saloon, carrying chairs and stools before it, and as rapidly retiring. The hall was full of men, clinging to the supports, each catching the infectious fear from his neighbour. Wave after wave now struck the ship. I heard the captain say the sea was making a clean breach over her, and order the deck-load overboard. Shortly after, the water, sweeping in from above, put out the engine-fires, and. . . Read More

Community Reviews

What I like the most about the books of Isabella L. Bird is the candor and the honesty in which she describes pretty much everything around her. I don't know whether she really meant her memoirs to be read only by some people she was requested to write by, or whether this was just some kind of "p...more

1854 bears resemblance to 2017!

A fascinating look into the mid 19th century in the States and Colonies (Canada.) Our pride of country, xenophobia, partisan politics, and immersion in news (fake and otherwise) have been with us since the beginning it seems.

About Canada as well and the east and mid0east states.

Miss Bird has a pleasant style. However, it is important to remember the time in which she wrote. What is interesting about observers from the past like MissBird and Tocqueville, is that America hasn't changed much. We will always be the people pushed out of decent society. This is our glory.

Very interesting mid 19th century view of Canada and the USA from the stand point of an Englishwoman.

Didn't enjoy this one as much as Rocky Mountains.

This book reads like a Christmas family update letter from a distant relative. There are attempts at pithy observation and profundity that come off as sincere, but a bit banal. There are turns of phrase that I can imagine being spoken with that slight hint of self-assessed cleverness that some pe...more

Miss Bird traveled through eastern Canada and the United States as a young twenty-something woman in 1854. She wrote extensive observations on society, Atlantic steam-ship travel, hotels, politics, religion, the scenery, and every other thing that caught her eye or engaged her thinking. Her obser...more

Did you ever wonder what life was like in America pre-civil war? Isabella Bird is a young Englishwoman traveling in the north-eastern United States and Canada in the 1850s. The book is packed with information - every detail of life, traveling, education, industry, medicine, shopping, entertainmen...more

The book offers the perspective of North America from--just what the titles says--an Englishwoman, and her observations are very interesting with its comparisons to her own Britain as well as revealing of her own background and class consciousness. After a while, it did become rather wearisome wi...more

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