Travel Tips from 1890

Mary Elizabeth McGrath Blake was totally over your packaged vacation to Europe. In, um, 1890.

Best remembered as a poet, Boston-based Blake also wrote three travel books, two of which were about international journeys. All three open with striking commentaries about the “travel trend” in 1880s America, but the introduction to A Summer Holiday in Europe is arguably the most powerful.

Blake drops some serious real talk here. Her advice boils down to this:

  • Get over yourself while on the road. No really, you don’t turn into a queen the second you show up somewhere new. So be nice to the locals.
  • Stop pretending your limited income is why you’re not traveling.
  • Pack light — no seriously, pack really, really light.
  • Bring a flask.
  • Sleep. For the love of god, sleep. Otherwise, you’ll forget everything you see and your whole trip will go to waste.
  • Remember, it’s all worth it, because without travel, you’ll never know Who You Are.

Read the whole thing for yourself, because really, no one can say it better than Blake:Read More »

“We ought to live confidently”

There are few issues as thorny as a woman’s decision to prioritize career or family — and it’s far from a new challenge. In 1919, newly divorced Rose Wilder Lane wrote her first novel on the subject, and a century later, it offers a striking look at how far we’ve come in terms of female empowerment and opportunity — and how far we still have to go.

Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the pioneer woman who wrote a “little” series of books about life on the American frontier. Rose had already written about a dozen books when Laura’s first came out in 1932, and it’s well established that Rose helped her mom whip her manuscripts into shape.

Rose, too, capitalized on American nostalgia for settler life and published several Depression-era novels set in the Ozarks. But Rose was more interested in wrestling with the social issues of the day, and her work was deeply influenced by her travels with the Red Cross in post-WWI Europe. Her time in Albania in particular helped influence her political ideology, which eventually morphed into libertarianism. Along with Ayn Rand and Isabel Patterson, Rose is considered one of the “founding mothers” of that movement.

A couple of years before Rose first went to Europe, she wrote a book about a young woman struggling to come to terms with her own ambition — and learning to overcome the men and women who stood in her way.Read More »

“The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson”

Kicking off the blog with a shout-out to a relevant Kickstarter campaign. Here’s the gist: Some folks are trying to raise cash to make a documentary about Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist who was one of the leading media voices against the rise of the Nazis. She was the first Western journalist to interview Adolf Hitler — and the first reporter expelled from Germany by his personal order.

After the war, Thompson faced enormous criticism for speaking out against the formation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people. Whatever your opinion about Israel, Thompson offered an early warning about the the instability of the region based on her extensive knowledge of European politics. And compared to today’s inflammatory media discourse, Thompson’s comments were pretty tame.

Thompson’s career encompassed much than a single political statement. She published eighteen books and article collections, many of which were rooted deeply in her American patriotism and in her Christian faith.

Anyway. Watch the video. And in the name of freedom, support the Kickstarter. Because as Dorothy once said: “It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.”

Dorothy Thompson
Dorothy Thompson