Are you ready? Mysteries, the hit fiction podcast team and. Yes, reaches this thrilling final season. This coming from my dear child team, and by season four, no one is allowed up here have to listen and follow my team and be on the radio, out Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, take me to to Monday.
But now we wait till and be welcome to stuff you missed in history class a production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Holly Fry. And I'm Tracy Wilson. And for Housekeeping, this is another episode that is sponsored by Monsta.
They are still promoting their new 30 and their entire line of CVS. And so they asked us if we would do an episode, as we have all been thinking about returning to normal life one day and things like road trips eventually. And one of the topics that we landed at the seemed in line with all of this was Isabella. Lucy Bird. Bird is celebrated as a world traveler and she definitely was that. But her story is interesting in part because she didn't really come into her own as a traveler until kind of late in her life.
She was in her 40s and her books about her journeys, some of which she wrote when she was younger, were wildly popular. And she is also frequently discussed in terms of overcoming adversity in that she was often unwell in her life. And that is a very complex part of her story. And we're going to try to unpack some of that toward the end of the episode.
Isabella Lucy Bird was born October 15th, 1831, in North Yorkshire at the family home of Boroughbridge Hall. Her parents were the Reverend Edward Bird and Dora Lawson bird. Dora taught Sunday school in the church where Edward ministered. And while ministry wasn't exactly a lucrative profession, both Edward and Dora had come from well-off families and money through inheritance. So the family was really comfortable.
When Isabella was about three, she gained a sister, Henrietta, who would factor in her life significantly. The two girls would be the bird family's only surviving children. There was a boy born to the birds who did not survive, and Edward had also had a son in his first marriage. Prior to his life with Dora, that child had also died. Isabella and Henrietta were extremely close.
Edward could be described as incredibly earnest and his views around religion. When his daughters were teenagers, he caused a huge stir when he tried to reform the Birmingham practice of shops being open on Sundays to shops were still remaining open, despite all of his efforts. And when he tried to serve summons to those two businesses from the church, wardens directed them to close on Sundays, things went kind of sideways. People, quote, pelted him with stones, mud and insults.
His parish thinking he had gone too far on this, turned on him. A lot of parishioners left the church. Edward, who was still recovering from scarlet fever at the time, resigned and the family moved to Eastburn. This was not the only time that he kind of tried to do a reform specifically around this issue and caused some problems and they ended up moving. But it's one of the bigger instances of it. Isabella was home schooled and she actually got a really good education from her parents.
She studied Latin and Greek, as well as art, natural history, chemistry and mathematics, among other topics. Early in her life, she expressed interest in becoming a writer through studying the Bible and the work of contemporary writers. She had really fallen in love with literature.
She was also quick to put her ambitions as a writer to work. When she was 16, she published a pamphlet that was written as a trial between free trade and protection. That was a hot topic at the time she published her first article at the age of 17, the first of many that she would go on to publish for various religious journals of the day. Yeah, a lot of her writing, particularly in in her early life, but also throughout her life, really did focus on religion and morality and how people managed their place in the world through their religion, in her 20s as an antidote to quote some sorrow, which is mentioned in her her first biography written by a friend, which we'll talk about.
And that sorrow may have been a heartbreak, although it's not entirely clear. And also because she had some general ill health, which included chronic insomnia. Isobella traveled internationally for the first time. A sea voyage had been prescribed by the doctor to bring back the young woman's vitality. And the Reverend Bird had arranged with a distant relation who captained a ship on the Cunard line that Isabella should travel to North America. Edward, as the story goes, is said to have given his daughter one hundred pounds and, quote, leave to stay away as long as it lasted.
So far, she went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then eventually to Boston, Cincinnati and Chicago, where she said to have thwarted a pickpocket. She let him take her baggage checks from her bag and then very calmly but loudly told a train official that the man next to her was the one who had her checks. She also visited Toronto for a while and a number of other places, all while writing detailed letters back to her sister, Henrietta.
You she called Henney. Yes. When we do our behind the scenes mini this week, I want to talk about some of these. Stories of her travels based on those letters she was writing to Henry Isabella, wrote two books once she returned home through an acquaintance, she had been introduced to publisher John Murray, who would become a lifelong collaborator and friend. Her book, The English Woman in America, was published in 1856. And then aspects of religion in the United States came out in 1859.
The English woman in America was a successful book, and Isabella was very proud of it. At one point she wrote to Mr. Murray, quote, I am vain enough to think that I have every reason to be satisfied with its success and with the favorable general criticism it has met with.
That success led her to work on the second book covering a topic that her father was deeply interested in. That was religious revival in the United States and the opening of aspects of religion. She poses the questions which drive the book's examinations, quote, What is the external influence of religion in the states? What is the attitude of churches? What is the attitude of the churches with respect to slavery? What is the general style of preaching? What is the practical working of the national system of education?
And what degree may a revival be regarded as the effect of any system which is pursued? I will say this, having read a significant portion of that book, it is very clear and we'll talk about this as we go on with Isabella.
She comes at it from a point of superiority of late. England has figured this out. The British Isles have figured this out. What's up, America? Which is kind of interesting.
Sadly, her father, Edward, died of complications from the flu in May of 1858. So that was before the book was completed. And of course, this was a huge blow to the family. They were very tight knit. Isabella made sure that the manuscript that her father had been working on titled Some Account of the Great Religious Awakening now going on in the United States, was published following his death. We should also pause briefly to talk about Henrietta letters.
Home to Henry would be the basis for most of Isabella's travel writing beyond her North American adventure, she wrote prolifically to her younger sister in a very dense script. That's a little hard to read when you see the originals. And her habit when she got back home was to take all those letters that Henrietta had saved and then arrange them into book form. And in some ways, this in the historical record makes Henry very much the instrument of her sister's desires.
But I want to point out that Henrietta was a fully existing human. She was, in fact, just as scholarly as her famous sister, if not more so. She was fluent in Latin and Greek. She actually composed poems in Greek. She knew a whole lot about astronomy and botany. She was a skilled artists and had a lot of other academic accomplishments. But the thing is, we have very little in the way of insight into Heinies interior thoughts.
There is like one surviving letter to a friend when the younger bird sister was traveling in Scotland in terms of how she saw the world. There are some other notes that come up because a biographer who wrote about Isabella had Heinies Diaries to work from. So we have that retelling from the diaries. But the diaries themselves have long since vanished.
So we mostly get the sense of Isabel sister through Isabella's own eyes. And Henry becomes kind of an idealized figure, almost a prop in somebody else's story. Isabella refers to her as her pet, her darling and other sweet nicknames. But it's important to remember what a key figure she was. And Isabelle is writing.
And before we get into Bird's life after her father's death, we're going to pause and have a sponsor break. Hey, it's Bobby Bones, executive producer of Make It Up as we Go, the brand new podcast from Audio Up and I Heart Radio brought to you exclusively by Unilever's Noor and Magnum Brands. The story follows a songwriter's journey as well as the songs themselves and how they make it to country radio from executive producer Miranda Lambert and creators Scarlett Burg and Jared Goosestep, a story inspired by the competitive world of Nashville writing rooms featuring original music by Scarlett Burke, director and executive producer, featuring some of the biggest names in country, including The Cool Guy and Everything Now Nowadays.
Make it up as we go only on the podcast network in association with audio of media created by Scarlett Burke and Jared Goosestep. After Edward died, the remaining bird family moved to Scotland, their Isabella at that point in her 30s continued to write, but she also took on philanthropic work. She worked in school reform. She also set up a shelter for homeless workers, also undoubtedly inspired by the family's religious roots. She established a training program there for missionaries to be educated in medical work.
That is something that would come up again and again throughout her life. Philanthropy was something that was really deeply ingrained in the entire families ideals as part of their religious beliefs. And Isabella was involved in many philanthropic works throughout her life and around the globe, many of which were focused on the medical field during these years in Scotland.
Isabella had become very careful with herself in her health, and this led her to fear that she was becoming too insulated. In 1864, she wrote, quote, I feel as if my life were spent in the very ignoble occupation of taking care of myself, and that unless some disturbing influences arise, I'm in great danger of becoming perfectly encrusted with selfishness. She was writing during this time and a lot of it was articles about religion and Christianity, specifically some of her work focused on homology.
Yeah, you get the sense that she is worried not just about being too self-centered, but like that she kind of wishes she could get out again and go see more of the world.
And she did make a brief trip to Canada in 1866.
But not long after her return, her mother died. And this is a very strange moment because in an odd turn, she and Henrietta, instead of sort of clinging to each other in their grief, parted ways. For a while after the loss of their mother, Henrietta went to the Isle of Mull and Isabella went first to London, then Tunbridge Wells and Farnam. And when they both returned home after about six months apart, Henrietta, according to a family friend, quote, lived her own gentle life while Isabella continued to work on her writing in philanthropy.
Over the next several years, Isabella's health waxed and waned. In late 1871, her doctors urged her to travel by sea again in the hopes that it would bolster her health. This took the form of a very long trip indeed, as the Bellbird cruised first to Australia, then New Zealand, then Hawaii, and then after getting to the coast of the U.S., then to Colorado. She did not like Australia very much and quote, except for much hospitality, not greatly appreciating its life, scenery and sights, Miss still felt in ill health while she was there.
She also was not particularly charmed by New Zealand. This is about the time where I started to get a little suspicious of Isabella Bird. But after that, things changed because she arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 25th, 1873, and she felt better almost instantly. Isabella was so happy in Hawaii that she stayed for six months writing, quote, At last I am in love and the old sea God has so stolen my heart and penetrated my soul that I seriously feel that hereafter, though I must be elsewhere in body, I shall be with him in spirit.
There is a story that I did not include here because it is oft repeated of her going to do like a live volcano visit and ending up. She was so amazed and gazing down at the volcano that she actually burned her face in her shoes because she was just kind of gawking from Hawaii. She sailed to San Francisco and then she made her way to Colorado while hiking with guides in the mountains there. She came across the camp of a man named Jim Nugent, known by the nickname Rocky Mountain Jim.
And as she wrote in her book, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, she was rather taken with him. This is how she described him. His face was remarkable. He is a man about 45 and must have been strikingly handsome. He has large, gray, blue eyes, deeply set with well-marked eyebrows, a handsome, aquiline nose and a very handsome mouth. His face was smooth shaven, except for a dense mustache and imperial tawny hair in thin, uncared for curls fell from under his hunter's cap and over his collar.
One eye was entirely gone, and the loss made one side of the face repulsive, while the other might have been modeled in marble.
Despite his rough home in the wilderness, Jim talked to Byrd like a gentleman. He was very charming with her. The two of them became very close. He rode with her as a guide and a friend. For several months, she explored the Rockies, although ultimately he revealed that he had a darker and more troubled side to himself. She became fearful of him, broke off the relationship and headed home to Scotland. Yes, she talks about him drinking in.
Now, that was very scary for her, although it also seems like he didn't do it much around her because he really, really did like her and want to make her like him in return. She would later write of Jim, quote, He is a man whom any woman might love but who no sane woman would marry. She also said later in life, this isn't something that that came up. In a contemporary writing when she had just gotten home, but much later that when they had parted, they had promised one another that, quote, after death, if it were permitted, the one taken would appear to the other.
And Jim was actually shot four months after she left North America. And he ultimately did die from this wound and late in her life. She claimed that he had appeared at the foot of her bed the night that he died. When Isabella got home from this huge journey, she started assembling her letters to Henrietta and through a book called The Hawaiian Archipelago, Bird insisted that she was just cleaning up the content of these letters for minor errors like spelling and grammar, that she was publishing them exactly as they were written.
This is what she said in the preface. Quote, The letters which follow were written to a near relation and often hastily and under great difficulties of circumstance. But even with these and other disadvantages, they appear to me the best form of conveying my impressions and their original vividness. With the exception of certain omissions and abridgments, they are printed as they were written. And for such demerits as arise from this mode of publication, I ask the kind indulgence of my readers.
But here's the thing.
If you compare her original letters to the published work, it really shows that she added a whole lot of scientific content and context into what she was representing as her in situ impressions of the islands as she was experiencing them. She adds, in a lot of things like statistics and scientific facts that she was not thinking about. But it almost makes it seem like she wants you to think she just had that knowledge at her fingertips that she was writing these letters.
She also included a note in the opening of the book that came of all of this, that the people of Hawaii had asked her to write it, noting that no other European had become so ingrained in their culture. Whether or not that request legitimately happened in any form is difficult to impossible to verify.
It seems like the most generous read. There's a there's a lot of that in her life, which we'll talk about at the end. So a significant figure. And Isabella's life was a friend that she made after she got back from her trip. Dr. John Bishop Bishop had become the family doctor when their prior physician, Dr. Moore, retired and he had become friends with both Isabella and Henrietta. John was really smitten with Isabella and wanted to marry her, but she was too devoted to her sister, according to her own account, to consider a suitor or a husband.
Keep in mind that both women were in their 40s by this point. She also had more travel in mind. She wanted to visit Japan, something she was planning for as early as February 1878. And this time she went first to New York and then across the United States, stopping in Chicago and Salt Lake City, as well as some other points. And then on to the port of San Francisco, where she boarded a ship to Asia. She visited Japan for two months, and then China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka was still called Ceylon at that point.
And then she made her way to Egypt. The heat of Northern Africa in May made her ready to return home, which she did. And she immediately began to work on another book about her travels.
One of the reasons that her writing was so popular was because it let the reader feel as though they were along for the ride. She would include details about her own preparations for her trips, like this expert in that book, which is titled Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, quote, The preparations were finished yesterday and my outfit weighed 110 pounds, which with Ito's weight of ninety pounds, is as much as can be carried by an average Japanese horse. I have a folding chair for in a Japanese house.
There is nothing but the floor to sit upon and not even a solid wall to lean against an air pillow, an India rubber bath sheets, a blanket and last and more important than all else, a canvas stretcher on light poles that can be put together into minutes and being two and a half feet high is supposed to be secure from fleas. The food question has been solved by a modified rejection of all advice. I have only brought a small supply of Liebig extract of meat, four pounds of raisins, some chocolate, both for eating and drinking and some brandy in case of need.
I have my own Mexican saddle and bridle, a reasonable quantity of clothes, some candles. Mr. Brunson's large map of Japan, volumes of the transactions of the English Asiatic Society and Mr Saito's English Japanese Dictionary. My traveling dress is a short costume of dust colored striped tweed with strong lace boots of UN black leather and a Japanese hat shaped like a large inverted bowl of light bamboo plat with a white cotton cover and a very light frame inside which fits around the brow and leaves.
A space of one and a half inches between the hat and the head for the free circulation of air, my money is in bundles of 50 yen and 50, 20 intense and notes. Besides which, I have some Rulo of copper coins. I have a bag for my passport, which hangs to my waist. All my luggage, with the exception of my saddle, which I use for a footstool, goes into one Kuruma and Ito, who is limited to 12 pounds, takes his along with him.
I love that detail that her servant can take. Like a bean takes all of this other stuff, everything. Yeah, that's a long passage. Bless you, Tracy, for reading it. But it's one of those things where I wanted to include it because a lot of discussions have heard that you will see we'll talk about how she really roughed it. And I'm not saying this is like staying at, you know, the Grand Palais or anything, but shit, a lot of stuff she wasn't going without.
She had an interior bath.
I question her choice of menu, but in terms of its helpfulness, but that's a different matter entirely. The details in these descriptions of her personal kit drew in readers, and they were probably almost as fascinating to some as accounts of the places she visited. And she also gave readers a sense of discovery because she was teaching them about the people of all of these places. But of course, she was doing so through the lens of a white European that still regarded foreigners as strange and ultimately inferior, as evidenced in this passage from the same book where she writes, quote, The Japanese look most diminutive in European dress.
Each garment is a misfit and exaggerates the miserable physique and the national defects of concave chests and bowlegs the lack of complexion and hair upon the face makes it nearly impossible to judge the ages of men. I supposed that all the railroad officials were stripped of 17 or 18, but they are men from 25 to 40 years old.
So once Isabella was settled back in Scotland, Dr. Bishop once again showed his interest in her. Although she told him she was not a marrying woman, she wrote to friends that he was terribly sweet and never pressured her on the issue.
We are about to get to a series of very unfortunate life changes for Isabella. So before we get into that, let's pause and have a quick sponsor break. As 1880 began, 49 year old Isabella was enjoying a great deal of success, a lady's life in the Rocky Mountains was in its third printing and she was putting the finishing touches on her book about Japan. But by April, things took a serious downturn as Henney became gravely ill, eventually diagnosed with typhoid fever.
Dr. Bishop was called for at the end of the month, and despite the fact that he had a broken leg from a riding accident, he stayed with her and nursed her for the next month. Despite his efforts as well as Isabella's it trying to get Henry nursed back to good health. Henrietta died in early June.
Dr. Bishop wrote of Henry, quote, She bore her sufferings with wonderful patients and sweetness. The nurse that I felt that we had never seen so lovely a patient to the very last. And even in delirium, she delighted in nature and in the beauty of flowers, the end was most calm and peaceful. Isabella was understandably distraught, writing to a family friend, quote, I am too dazed with grief and fatigue to think of any future.
John continued to be part of Isabella's life and he really supported her through her grief. In December 1880, Isabella at last accepted his proposal of marriage, and she wrote to a friend, quote, I earnestly pray that I may be able to return in some degree the most unique, self sacrificing, utterly devoted love that I have ever seen and that I may find calm and he happiness while my life lasts.
While Isabella may have been concerned that she wouldn't be around long because of ongoing medical issues, which we'll be talking about more in a moment. The two of them got married on March 8th, 1881, because she was still in mourning for her sister. Isabella, who was getting married at 49, wanted a quiet ceremony with no guests.
John had taken over the lease on the cottage that Henrietta had lived in so that they could make a home there. And he promised Isabella that when the urge to travel came back to her, he would not stop her from going. He adopted the saying, quote, I have only one formidable rival in Isabella's heart, and that is the high table land of Central Asia. John was so devoted to his wife that he was jokingly called Mr. Bird by some of their friends instead of them referring to Isabella as Mrs Bishop.
So when they got married, Isabella had been worried that she wouldn't live long. But it was John who experienced a sharp decline in his health not long into the marriage, just two days before their fifth anniversary. He died after a years long battle with what's described as blood poisoning. Isabella spent a year in mourning, and during that time an idea started to form in her widow's grief. She had become even more devout, and she wanted to also honor her husband's work as a doctor.
So she resolved to become a missionary. Yeah. Isabella believed that due to an open scratch that he had on his face when he was tending to patients, he had gotten an infection that way and that was what had caused his illness. After John's death, Isabella was financially in a position to do whatever she wished because she had inherited a significant sum as his widow. So this idea that she had in mind was easy to turn to action from a financial perspective in her late 50s.
At this point, she set out again, this time for India, where she took on a fairly significant project. She joined forces with an English medical missionary named Fanny Jane Butler, and she founded the Henrietta Byrd Memorial Hospital in Amritsar and the John Bishop Memorial Hospital in Srinagar. Izabella continued to explore the world. From there, she went to Tibet, Persia and Turkey, among other places. It was the first time she had undertaken such a significant journey without having Henrietta back home to write to you about everything that she saw and experienced.
She did write back to friends regularly, though she had a series of accidents during this phase of her travels as well. She broke two ribs while trying to cross a river on horseback when the horse lost its footing. She also traveled the desert in the middle of winter, along with Indian Army officer Major Herbert Sawyer. It was a journey that they barely survived. Yeah, they were described as arriving when they finally got back to like a significant metropolitan area as being half dead.
When Isabella returned to the British Isles, she became an honorary fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1890. Then in 1892, she became the first woman to become a member of the Royal Geographical Society.
She didn't stay home long, though. She wanted to go back to Asia, and she did that in the late 1990s. This time she traveled up the Yangzi River and then overland to the country. She also broke her arm while traveling when her mule cart overturned on a dangerous road. She was waylaid while she was treated by a missionary. She visited Korea and Vladivostok during the same trip before going back home to write the Yangtse Valley. Beyond, which was published in 1900, in 1981, at the age of 70, Isabella made her last trip, this time to Morocco, but once again, she was ill.
During this trip, she contracted what she describes as blood poisoning and spent several weeks convalescing. But she did continue the trip after she recovered, although she did not care for Morocco at all and referred to it as one of the darkest places she had ever been to. She had some very racist attitudes about the various peoples living in Morocco. She was quite frank about which one she thought were genetically superior, based on whether they had been integrating with African peoples and having families through those bloodlines versus the ones that were integrating with European families.
It is incredibly gross to read. It's very crunchy. Thankfully, though, when she returned home, she didn't think she had enough notes to compile a book about Morocco. So I'm personally thankful that the those ideas did not make it into like a book that was later lauded as a travelogue while she was making plans to possibly go once again to China after Morocco, Isabella became very ill.
She never recovered, really, and she died on October 7th, 1984. The obituary that ran in the Gloucester Citizen read, quote, The London newspapers have not done justice to the wonderful career of Miss Isabella Bird parenthesis, Mrs. Jail Bishop, who has just died in Edinburgh. She was one of the luckiest travellers of either sex that this country has ever known. And her books were particularly rich in fresh, direct observation.
So something that we've mentioned a few times, but not really talked about in depth yet, Isabella Bird's health. And that's something that often comes up in discussions of her life, usually in the sort of she was an invalid who traveled the world kind of way to make her story more sensational. To be clear, using disabled people's stories as inspiration is able. And so her help there and how it impacted her life's work, that is worth an examination on its own.
Yeah, and I feel like we should mention that she wrote those kinds of stories as well. Yeah. Which is part of the problematic aspect of this. Throughout her life, Isabella had a number of complaints related to her physical well-being. But thanks to 19th century medicine and birds, very careful management of her image, these issues are sometimes difficult to sort out. In a 2002 volume of Isabella's letters to her sister, Henryetta editor Kate Chibouk discuss the various interpretations that historians have had over the years of the many physical complaints that Isabella had and the possibility that some of them may have actually been manifestations of psychological issues that she was dealing with, as well as a result of misguided medical treatment.
So, of course, this opens up a whole can of worms. And on the show, we generally don't try to diagnose anybody as possible psychological issues. In retrospect, we are not clinicians. And apart from that, that person is not alive for anyone to examine, even if we were. Additionally, we know today that there are all kinds of chronic, invisible illnesses that can genuinely impact a person's wellbeing. And we don't want to write off that possible aspect of her health either, especially because this was the time when that sort of thing was not even part of the vernacular.
No, there was no concept of this. And it is worth noting that Bird herself seems to have started to put together an idea of a connection between her mental state and her physical health. In a letter she wrote to her publisher, John Murray, while she was traveling in Korea in the 1980s, Byrd wrote, quote, I suffer from fatigue of a social kind and that part of ordinary life. The attempt, often fruitless to make things fit in, produces attacks of nervous exhaustion and partial failure of the heart.
She similarly wrote about some of the things she was experiencing with language like constitutional depression and prostration of the nervous system. And we know that on several occasions doctors prescribed travel for the sake of Isabella's wellness. One of the other things that some historians have theorized on with Isabella was that she used her ill health as a way to kind of validate her desire for travel, in part because her strict religious upbringing would see traveling simply for its own pleasurable sake in a negative light.
Again, though, this is conjecture.
Yeah, I feel like we should also mention that we don't have records of any doctors actually saying I think you should go on a trip. So that is something that you'll sometimes see people question like did did that really happen or was she concocting this whole thing to try to negotiate this world where it would feel weird for her to just say, I want to travel? What we know is that she really did indeed have some health issues from childhood early on, there were complaints related to her back and spine.
When she was 18, Bird had a surgery to remove a fibrous tumor from her spine. She would have aches in that same area the rest of her life. She also had carbuncles on her back on and off as well, which are incredibly painful. And she also had what sounds very much like chronic sleep disorders. She writes a lot about having long periods of her life plagued by insomnia.
Curiously, though, it seems like as soon as she was out in the world and off on an adventure, at least to a place that she liked, a lot of her maladies seemed to vanish. They would come back when she got home again. For example, that 1878 1879 tour of Asia would have been exhausting, but the only time she felt ill was as she was going back to Scotland. And this was not something that went unnoticed. We're not like having a gotcha moment of like.
Does anybody notice that she didn't feel bad while she was traveling? This is part of her public identity in some ways. The Edinburgh Medical Journal referred to Isabella Bird in her obituary as, quote, the invalided home and the Samson abroad. The Journal acknowledges how difficult it would be to the lay mind to make sense of her, quote, mass of physical contradictions.
These contradictions were summed up this way, quote, When she took to the stage as a pioneering traveler, she laughed at fatigue. She was indifferent to the terrors of danger. She was careless of what a day might bring forth in the matter of food. But stepping from the boards into the wings of life, she immediately became the invalid, the timorous, delicate, gentle voiced woman that we associate with the Mrs Bishop of Edinburgh.
But that same writing actually makes an effort to make sense of this seeming disparity. These two different states that Isabelle Liburd lived in continuing on, quote, Mrs Bishop was indeed one of those subjects who are dependent to the last degree upon their environment to bring out their possibilities. It is not a question of dual personality. It is the varied response of a single personality under varied conditions. There have also been historians who have pointed out that when Isabella was home in Scotland, the medical treatment she received, which at times included things like bleeding and a possible overdosing on potassium bromide that easily could have made her feel a lot worse.
So her health, which was often a part of articles about her, both in her own time and since then, and was often part of her own writing, really becomes a difficult matter to pass in a lot of ways.
In 1986, which was two years after her death, the first biography was printed of Isabella Bird. Bird was always really careful when it came to managing her image.
And that biographer Anna Stoddart has been friends with Isabella since 1860, when she first moved to Edinburgh with her mother and sister and daughter, it seems was kind of on this path of writing this biography before Isabella had died and possibly had gotten some instruction about it. But she clearly adored Isabella Bird, and her resulting work was very, very flattering. As this section of the preface makes clear, she wrote, quote, As a traveller, Mrs Bishop's outstanding merit is that she nearly always conquered her territories alone, that she faced the wilderness almost single handed, that she observed and recorded without companionship.
She suffered no toil to impede her, no study to repel her. She triumphed over her own limitations of health and strength as over the dangers of the road. Nor did she ever lose in no less rough vicissitudes, in intercourse with untutored peoples, or in the strenuous dominance which she was repeatedly compelled to exercise her womanly graces of tranquil manner, gentle voice, reasonable persuasiveness, wherever she found her servants. Whether Cooley's mule drivers, soldiers or personal attendants, she secured their devotion.
The exceptions were very rare and proved the rule. Really? I have this vision that it's unkind, but I have this vision of Miss Stoddart writing this and feeling like, yes, I am really nailing this, this is incredibly moving work. Also, a lot of this is flatly untrue. Isabella Bird was very brazen in her travels, like she didn't shy away from doing things by herself. But in a lot of these places, she had guides.
She had people that were helping her along the way, like it wasn't like she was just a woman out alone in the world. She almost always had some connection in a place she was going and would be traveling with other Europeans all the time. It's not quite the way it's characterized here. So one thing we have not really touched on at all is that Isabella wrote poetry so highly, wanted to include a brief bit of it at the end. This is a piece that that really appealed to Holly, who is also, as I said earlier, having some insomnia always since I was a kid.
Yeah, this is from a poem entitled Under Chloroform, a Psychological Fragment, which first appeared in Murry's magazine in 1887. And it's only the first stanza because it kind of tickled me. She wrote Sleep, Sleep. Can I ever wake again to weep, wake from this charmed lotus dream to battle again with storm and stream and the world of life and its ceaseless strife to be ever weary, toiling in dreary. Oh, waking me not again to weep for a blissful thing is this falling asleep?
I have been in that mode where I was like yes, sleep is happening. Although I don't mind insomnia at all. I think it's been my constant companion since I was like tiny. So it just feels normal.
In any case, that is Bird. She's so complicated.
Yeah, yeah. Well and when we were we were kind of getting the ball rolling on doing this episode. And you made reference to her problematic at best attitudes. And I was like, I feel like that is every white woman world traveler of the nineteenth century.
Yeah. Oh for sure. Yeah. It's really interesting. I mean, Isabella Bird is one of those people, one of her most famous images. There's a photograph of her in like a full Manchurian costume.
And I'm just like Rumbelow Grandey. But at the time, it really does crack me up when she talks about how the poor, like uneducated people of the places she traveled, were so thankful that a white European woman was there to record what their world was like.
Yeah, like girl, really. But in much more delightful thoughts and talks, I have two pieces of listener mail because they're both short.
One is from our listener, Eva, who wrote Tracey and Holly, I wanted to thank you for making the episode about Free Frank McWhirter. His life story provides a new and inspiring perspective on an important part of world history. And then she mentions there is a really cool thing that The Guardian newspaper did, which are these black history charts. If you go to The Guardian, I think you can do you can just search black history. Wal-Mart, they have them for sale.
But it's just a cool idea that, like someone has passed a lot of this information that kind of gets left out and you can see where everything fits into world history. So that is cool. Thank you for that. I'm probably ordering those. The other is from our listener, Margaret, who did one of those things that will always win my heart. Truth, dear polyandry. See my two standard poodles, Henry and George and me, Margaret Always Love You podcast.
I am a huge history buff slash geek, so I love learning new and old things that happened in history. She also gives us an absurd idea. But man, here's the important part. She sent us a video and a picture of these dogs. And what I don't know if people know is that I have a weakness for standard poodle.
I just think they're darling. I mean, I like all dogs, but standard poodles just they're really beautiful dogs. So thank you. Thank you, Margaret.
Now, I covet your sweet pooches. Please hug Henry and George for me because they're delightful. If you would like to write to us, and especially if you want to send Dog and kitty pictures or any other pet you may have. That sounds grand. I always love getting those. You can do that at History podcast it I heart radio dotcom. You can also find us pretty much everywhere on social media. And if you would like to subscribe to the podcast and you haven't yet, that is super.
Are easy to do, you can do it on the I Heart radio app, at Apple podcast or wherever it is you listen.
Stuff you missed in history class is the production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts for my heart radio music by her radio app Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.