Through "travel", taken as a radical departure from the usual environment and way of life, we discover women who, having lived through exceptional events, have left accounts that form a whole literature to be discovered, rich in information about women, the world and history.
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Urania White

This site is dedicated to a vast corpus of "small" women’s literature from the 19th century and beyond. "Small" literature, because it did not earn their authors the status of writers, who generally wrote only one work inspired by an experience that marked their lives, but nonetheless literature that is not minor, because it transmits to us a strong and strongly gendered image of the mentalities of the time. It is designed to introduce readers to works that are not widely seen, but which are invaluable and accessible for the most part in paperback or on the Internet, thanks to the Gallica, Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, BNF/Hachette sites, etc. It is equally designed to introduce readers to women who voluntarily embarked on a dual process of emancipation through "travel", in the sense of a complete displacement of their place of life, and emancipation through writing.


Several sets of texts are presented here, revealing the female mentality of the time when, criss-crossing the world from the North Pole to Futuna, women were discovering foreign countries and populations, while at the same time witnessing or participating in two major historical phenomena - slavery and colonization - and participating in a third system of contact between the West and the rest of the world: tourism.


- The stories of French women travelers of the 19th century: seventy-seven French women who travelled the world beyond their European neighbors, more than a hundred of them published in books or episodes in the prestigious travel magazines of the time.


- The stories of women travelers who witnessed slavery in Africa, the Orient, the United States or the Caribbean. One hundred and four women travelers of the period gave their own views of slavery in the accounts they published on their return, some approving of it, and few denouncing it.


- The stories of women who hunted big game in Kenya in the colonial period of the 1930s, either as settlers or, being very wealthy, as participants in the luxurious safaris of the time. With the exception of Denmark’s Karen Blixen and Switzerland’s Vivienne de Watteville, they were all English or American. The greedy, merciless hunt recounted in some forty texts, and the comments on the native Kenyans and their way of life, speak eloquently of colonial mentalities.


- The stories of women captured for ransom between the 17th century and the present day, who were able to recount their ordeal. Mostly Christian women captured in the Mediterranean by the Barbary pirates, and colonial women abducted by natives on American soil. Some forty stories written within the ideological norms of their society and time, which in turn were used to reaffirm national sentiment.


- The accounts of women colonists include, on the one hand, testimonies from French women in Africa and Asia, British women in Canada, India and Africa, Belgian women in the Congo, German women in Africa, and on the other, continental European and English women involved in the conquest of North America. The events in question span three centuries, from 1675, in the case of the first account of English colonization of the east coast of North America, to 1967, in the case of the last, at the height of the independence era and concerning Nigeria. Armed attacks by those who do not accept being dispossessed of their land, but also overwork, disease, various plagues, death prowls around these narrators. There’s a reason for this strong presence: having lived through tragic events motivated a gender that didn’t feel entitled to write, while at the same time the discovery of new worlds and the desire to share it with others lifted inhibitions about writing. A collection of 63 women authors for a collection of texts that, through their density of information, nourish the great and small of colonial history.


These texts are analyzed by Françoise Lapeyre in five books:


- Le roman des voyageuses françaises,


- Quand les voyageuses découvraient l’esclavage,


- Une écrivaine au Kenya, Vivienne de Watteville, une histoire des récits de la chasse colonialeféminine,


- C’était un matin rouge, a history of tales of women captured for ransom,


- The female colonial narrative.

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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Westerners scour the world to learn and discover, but also to wage war, colonize, evangelize or to do business. Although less spoken of, women hit the road despite the terrible perils and discomfort of travelling.





Françoise Lapeyre

BOOKS

The diversity of women's literature is also part of a series of captive stories written by survivors of dramatic kidnappings whose release has been made conditional, ransom payment or conversion. Historical events have thus been inscribed in women's destinies: the English colonization of the United States, the war of Christian Europe against the Turkish-Muslim world, the conquest of the American West, the abolition of the Edict of Nantes or the current acts of terrorism.
Vivienne de Watteville went to Kenya to hunt big cats in 1922 during a period of intensive development of colonial hunting safaris, and since her second stay in 1928, she has exchanged the rifle for the camera. Two experiences recounted in two books, "Out in the Blue" and "A Tea with Elephants - A Little Music on Mount Kenya", belonging to an important female colonial hunting literature in Kenya and neighbouring countries at the same time, about forty works in English, difficult to find and not reissued. Based on these stories, Françoise Lapeyre documents this universe of colonization that gives women back their status by placing them above the colonized, by delivering to them, like their fathers, husbands or lovers, all the country's goods and abandoning to violence without control of their weapons, an extraordinary wild fauna.

France knows very little of her great women travellers before Alexandra David-Neel. And yet, they were many before 1900 - adventurers, artists, expatriates, tourists, colonists, activists, pioneering women journalists, ethnologists in the field or missionaries - to take off for Siberia, Senegal, China, Brazil or Persia, often triumphing over extraordinary hardships. Charlotte-Adélaïde Dard survived the wreck of the Méduse, and Louise Fusil, a French actress with the Imperial Theatre of Moscow, crossed the Berezina with Napoleon’s retreating armies. It was rare courage which allowed Jane Dieulafoy to carry back priceless archaeological treasures from Persia for the Louvre. The narratives of the first French women travellers are part of the history of the 19th century, the century of the expansion of knowledge and territories, of cultural, social and religious proselytism. Destined as they were by law and by the mindset of the age to domestic life rather than adventure, these authors, modest as people but proud as travellers, are the foundation of our women’s travel literature, where we may discover true talents in the double quality of the writing and the viewpoint, as well as exceptional personalities.

Between the accounts of the very first women travellers of the 18th century and those who were travelling in numbers around 1880, slavery had not only been maintained throughout the world but sometimes intensified, and then later abolished. During this period of almost two centuries, all the women concerned here witnessed scenes of slavery. Their accounts deny it, approve of it, or else condemn it. The diversity of information and attitudes according to country or period constitutes the wealth of this collection of commentaries gleaned from the writings of some fifty British women, as many Continental Europeans and a few American women. The object, however, is not the history of slavery but the history of Western women’s thinking about slavery, a fragment of the overall history of slavery. At first it was especially aristocrats who travelled or went off to live abroad, and for whom Oriental harem slavery or the serfdom of the great Russian landholdings seemed a condition natural to a part of humanity. Then came the women who found themselves exposed to the spectacle of slavery on the plantations in the Caribbean and in the southern states of the United States, torn between anguish and revolt and their fascinated discovery of the tropics, where slavery was perceived as one more aspect of exoticism. At the end came those who were rather within the sphere of abolitionist ideas, then those who commented upon the post-abolition situation with all its ambiguities.

BOOKS

The diversity of women's literature is also part of a series of captive stories written by survivors of dramatic kidnappings whose release has been made conditional, ransom payment or conversion. Historical events have thus been inscribed in women's destinies: the English colonization of the United States, the war of Christian Europe against the Turkish-Muslim world, the conquest of the American West, the abolition of the Edict of Nantes or the current acts of terrorism.
Vivienne de Watteville went to Kenya to hunt big cats in 1922 during a period of intensive development of colonial hunting safaris, and since her second stay in 1928, she has exchanged the rifle for the camera. Two experiences recounted in two books, "Out in the Blue" and "A Tea with Elephants - A Little Music on Mount Kenya", belonging to an important female colonial hunting literature in Kenya and neighbouring countries at the same time, about forty works in English, difficult to find and not reissued. Based on these stories, Françoise Lapeyre documents this universe of colonization that gives women back their status by placing them above the colonized, by delivering to them, like their fathers, husbands or lovers, all the country's goods and abandoning to violence without control of their weapons, an extraordinary wild fauna.

France knows very little of her great women travellers before Alexandra David-Neel. And yet, they were many before 1900 - adventurers, artists, expatriates, tourists, colonists, activists, pioneering women journalists, ethnologists in the field or missionaries - to take off for Siberia, Senegal, China, Brazil or Persia, often triumphing over extraordinary hardships. Charlotte-Adélaïde Dard survived the wreck of the Méduse, and Louise Fusil, a French actress with the Imperial Theatre of Moscow, crossed the Berezina with Napoleon’s retreating armies. It was rare courage which allowed Jane Dieulafoy to carry back priceless archaeological treasures from Persia for the Louvre. The narratives of the first French women travellers are part of the history of the 19th century, the century of the expansion of knowledge and territories, of cultural, social and religious proselytism. Destined as they were by law and by the mindset of the age to domestic life rather than adventure, these authors, modest as people but proud as travellers, are the foundation of our women’s travel literature, where we may discover true talents in the double quality of the writing and the viewpoint, as well as exceptional personalities.

Between the accounts of the very first women travellers of the 18th century and those who were travelling in numbers around 1880, slavery had not only been maintained throughout the world but sometimes intensified, and then later abolished. During this period of almost two centuries, all the women concerned here witnessed scenes of slavery. Their accounts deny it, approve of it, or else condemn it. The diversity of information and attitudes according to country or period constitutes the wealth of this collection of commentaries gleaned from the writings of some fifty British women, as many Continental Europeans and a few American women. The object, however, is not the history of slavery but the history of Western women’s thinking about slavery, a fragment of the overall history of slavery. At first it was especially aristocrats who travelled or went off to live abroad, and for whom Oriental harem slavery or the serfdom of the great Russian landholdings seemed a condition natural to a part of humanity. Then came the women who found themselves exposed to the spectacle of slavery on the plantations in the Caribbean and in the southern states of the United States, torn between anguish and revolt and their fascinated discovery of the tropics, where slavery was perceived as one more aspect of exoticism. At the end came those who were rather within the sphere of abolitionist ideas, then those who commented upon the post-abolition situation with all its ambiguities.

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