The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women's Writing

Living Edition
| Editors: Lesa Scholl (Editor-in-Chief)

Bird, Isabella

Living reference work entry


Isabella Bird’s (1831–1904) transcontinental peregrinations through North America, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific region, and Australia were hailed as inspiringly intrepid. In the twenty-first century, Bird has been reinstated not only for her heroic refusal of conformity but for her prototypically Victorian qualities of energy, fortitude, and resilience.


The life and career of Isabella Bird (1831–1904) are approximately coextensive with the Victorian period itself and have undergone similar vicissitudes of subsequent reputation. In her time, her transcontinental peregrinations through North America, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific region, and Australia were hailed as inspiringly intrepid. In the early twentieth century, Bird, like many female Victorian travellers, was mocked for an oppressive sense of propriety. Individual liberation became internalized repression, while critique of oppression became complicity with empire. In the twenty-first century,...


Conformity Empire Evangelicalism Globe-trotting Illness Science 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anderson, Monica. 2006. Women and the politics of travel, 1870–1914. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barr, Pat. 2015. A curious life for a lady: The story of Isabella Bird. London: Faber. [1970].Google Scholar
  3. Bird, Isabella L. 1856. An Englishwoman in America. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1869. Notes on old Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Edmonstron and Douglas.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 1875a. The Hawaiian archipelago: Six months among the palm groves, coral reefs and volcanos of the Sandwich Islands. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 1875b. The aspects of religion in the United States of America. London: Samson Low, Son & Co.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1879. A lady’s life in the Rocky Mountains. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 1880. Unbeaten tracks in Japan. An account of travels in the interior, including visits to the aborigines of Yezo and Shrines of Nikko and Ise, 2 vols. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 1883. The Golden chersonese and the way thither. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1891. Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, including a summer in the upper Kazun Region and a visit to the Nestorian Rayahs, 2 vols. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1894. Among the Tibetans. New York: Fleming: H. Revell.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 1898. Korea and her neighbours: A narrative of travel, with an account of recent vicissitudes and present position of the country, 2 vols. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 1899. The Yangtze Valley and beyond: An account of journeys in China, chiefly in the province of Sze Chuan and among the Mantze of the Somoterritory. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2002a. In Letters to Henrietta, ed. Kay Chubbock. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2002b. Views in the Far East. Tokyo: S. Kayima.Google Scholar
  16. Bird, Dunlaith. 2012. Travelling in different skins: Gender identity in European women’s oriental travelogues 1850–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Birkett, Dea. 1988. Spinsters abroad: Victorian lady travellers. London: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Harper, Lila Marz. 2001. Solitary travellers: Nineteenth century women’s travel writing and the scientific vocation. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.Google Scholar
  19. John Murray Archive, The. The National Library of Scotland.
  20. Mills, Sara. 1991. Discourses of difference: An analysis of women’s travel-writing and colonialism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Morgan, Susan. 1996. Place matters: Gendered geography in Victorian women’s travel books about South-East Asia. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Robinson, Jane. 1994. Wayward women: A guide to women travellers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Sterry, Lorraine. 2009. Victorian women travellers in Japan: Discovering a “new” land. Folkestone: Global Orient.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stoddart, Anna. 2011. The life of Isabella Bird (Mrs Bishop). London: John Murray. [1906].CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Walker, A. Stodart. 1904. Mrs Bishop. Edinburgh Medical Journal 16: 383.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TokyoTokyoJapan

Section editors and affiliations

  • Emily Morris
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Thomas More College, University of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada