Writer and historian Dr Beverley Duguid will be at Paddington Library this evening, 10 November, as part of Paddington Book Festival.
She will be discussing the exciting and unusual life of Amelia Matilda Murray (1795-1884), a Royal lady in waiting who wrote extensively about her travels in the Americas. In 1854, nearing the age of 60, Amelia travelled around the United States, Cuba and Canada, and subsequently expressed strong opinions about the institution of slavery. Rather than suppress her opinions to remain a court official, Amelia quit her duties as a lady-in-waiting to publish her writings.
This promises to be a fascinating talk, for anyone interested in travel writing, social history, feminism and adventure!
Below, Beverley answers some questions about travel, feminism and identity.
What is it about travel writing that appeals to you personally?
My research into women travellers is based on my family’s own history of travel from the Caribbean to England in the 1950s and my own personal racial combination of Barbadian and Scottish heritage. The realisation at a young age, that I am connected to other places apart from the one I live in, has led me to develop a keen interest in the movement of people and how this movement can lead to change in the individual or further exploration of the ‘self’.
Do you think women travellers brought a unique perspective to European views of the world in the nineteenth century?
I believe women travellers brought (and continue to bring) a different perspective of the world. Through my research I have determined, without meaning to be deterministic, that there is a distinction between the genders in the way they wrote about ‘abroad’. There were certain travel writing conventions which both genders followed, however, women often discussed their ‘feelings’ about a place and were empathetic to people and situations they found themselves in, such as the conditions of slaves; and, at a time when women had to follow distinct norms of behaviour, were vocal for and against the slave trade. This adds a dynamic voice to European views of the world.
Why do you think gender and inequality is so important to a modern audience?
Debates about gender and inequality highlight our differences in the world. Our dissimilarities aren’t negative but can act as a marker for change or what needs to be brought to the surface- for example, sexism or political injustice.
As the American writer and feminist Audre Lorde wrote:
‘Refusing to recognise difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women.’
Read more on Dr Duguid’s blog The ‘Viajera’ – for women who travel.