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  • Spanish Women Travelers at Home and Abroad, 1850– 1920: From Tierra del Fuego to the Land of the Midnight Sun by Jennifer Jenkins Wood
  • Adriana Méndez Rodenas (bio)
Jennifer Jenkins Wood. Spanish Women Travelers at Home and Abroad, 1850– 1920: From Tierra del Fuego to the Land of the Midnight Sun. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2014. 411 pp. ISBN 978-1611485554, $95.00.

Mary Kingsley’s billowing dress caught in an animal trap in Travels in West Africa (1897), or a demure Maria Graham peering out of a carriage in Journal of a Residence in Chile (1824), are riveting images that illustrate the allure of women’s travel, a genre which has now come of age. If the long eighteenth-century codified the European explorer willing to plumb the depths of the earth or sail the open sea in search of the secrets of science, the nineteenth-century ushered the age of women’s travel. It was during this period that the woman traveler came into her own as subject of her narrative, as the transition to modernity, new commercial routes, and the reaches of European empire opened up previously hidden locales. With the rise of traveling technologies, including ship, coach, and rail, women took advantage of these opportunities, as movement to foreign lands implied breaking away from the confines of domesticity. In many cases, venturing beyond the fringes of Europe meant the start of a literary vocation, a point amply made by critics of Victorian adventurers and “solitary travelers” (Maria Frawley, Sara Mills, and Lila Marz Harper).

While recent studies appraise French and British travelers to nineteenth-century Latin America (Angela Pérez Mejía, Mary Louise Pratt), Spanish women have not received an equal degree of critical attention. Jennifer Jenkins Wood’s Spanish Women Travelers at Home and Abroad fills an important gap in studies of gender and travel by her focus on peninsular women who went abroad from the mid-nineteenth-century to the first quarter of the twentieth, and who participated in the growing trend that saw waves of European women reaching all corners of the globe (3). This period also marked the rise of Romantic subjectivity, followed by the turn toward greater empowerment, self-knowledge, access to education, and literary achievement, factors which characterized women’s entry into the modern era. Besides the change in women’s condition, the main rationale for extending [End Page 1154] the book’s temporal frame to the 1920s is the shift from travel to tourism, which opened up new categories of women travelers such as journalists (3). Many of the travel accounts also register the loss of Spain’s overseas colonies in 1898, contributing to a crucial period of national reflection over the next two decades.

In lively and engaging style, Jenkins Woods sets her study of women’s travel within a larger frame: the struggle to obtain rights of citizenship within the strictly enforced gender system that prevailed in Spain until “well into the twentieth century” (10). In this context, women travelers are early feminist pioneers, whether they advocated directly for women’s rights, as did Emilia Pardo Bazán and Carmen de Burgos (14–15, 17), or gave a more subtle argument for the need to improve women’s degraded status. Early on in the book, Jenkins Wood establishes her criteria for selection and method of analysis, focusing on peninsular women writers who wrote in Spanish during the period at hand (13–14). This temporal frame permits her to include far-flung destinations—From Tierra del Fuego to the Land of the Midnight Sun, as the poetic subtitle claims—as well as a host of traveling experiences, from Romantic observer, to leisure travel, tourism, and journalism.

Proceeding in chronological order, the chapters focus on ten individual travelers, beginning with the nineteenth-century “greats” (“Fernán Caballero,” Emilia Pardo Bazán, and Carolina Coronado), and ending on a collective note with “Spanish Missionary Nuns in Africa” (vii–viii). The motives prompting the travel experience, which ranged from the personal to political and professional, as well as the destination, are second to the persona of the travel-writer. In turn, individual voices are shaped by the...


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