I’ve been saving up a set of Victorian trade cards I think of as “Intrepid Women”. Actually, some of them remind me quite forcibly of Amelia Peabody, the heroine in the wonderful Elizabeth Peters’ series about a Victorian archaeologist who’s a force of nature and has the most wonderful adventures…I highly recommend the entire series (but of course I love anything that touches on ancient Egypt, archaeology, mystery, romance…)….ok, enough digressing!
At any rate, there seems to have been an entire series of these wonderful, large cards above, depicting women in professions such as the Navy or Medicine, but I’ve only snagged two in all my time trolling eBay. One is from pharmacy and the other is from a stove manufacturer!
Then there are a number of cards with women and binoculars and/or butterfly nets, which I love because these ladies aren’t sitting in the parlor fanning themselves – they’re out and about studying nature, having adventures.
Not that he’s a Victorian in any sense of the word, but I loved this quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson. I can imagine the Victorian ladies were similarly affected when they sallied forth to examine the world with their binoculars:
For me at age 11, I had a pair of binoculars and looked up to the moon, and the moon wasn’t just bigger, it was better. There were mountains and valleys and craters and shadows. And it came alive.
And finally, a real life intrepid career woman, Nellie Bly. She was an investigative reporter, who actually completed a trip around the world in 72 days to prove that the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days wasn’t so far fetched. (Nellie actually met Jules Verne in France while on the trip.) She visited a leper colony, bought a monkey…there was a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” , which wasn’t so much “where in the world is Nellie Bly?” as “guess to the second what time she’ll arrive home”.
She once had herself locked in an insane asylum to do an expose. At 31 she retired from journalism to marry a 73 year old millionaire and took over his factory when he died. She’s credited with several inventions. During World War I she went back to reporting and was especially interested in the suffragette movement.
Several quotes from her (from the Nellie Bly Online website):
“Never having failed, I could not picture what failure meant.” “From Jersey Back To Jersey”; The New York World; January 26, 1890
“I was too impatient to work at the usual duties assigned women on newspapers. ” Six Months In Mexico (1888)
“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything. ” Nellie Bly’s Motto
“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall. ” The Evening-Journal; January 8, 1922