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European Travel for Woman - a guide from 1900

I came across this book written by Mary Calawander Jones a few weeks ago when I was meandering through Library of Congress documents and found it pretty fascinating. The tips in there made me laugh or roll my eyes. For example:

Traveling for women who have no man to look after them is easier and more convenient in Europe than it is here. In the smallest railway stations, for instance, there are always porters, or at least idle men and boys, ready to take your hand luggage; and the whole machinery of hotel-keeping and transportation is carried into greater detail than with us.

Or...

It is a great mistake to take children to Europe unless you mean to settle down somewhere, as if you move about much they are a nuisance to your fellow-travelers.

Or this...

It is difficult to see why anyone should think it necessary to have her name and home address put on her luggage in full, as it is of no use, and only serves to make her conspicuous, which is always disagreeable to a lady, besides offering an opportunity to adventurers.

The chapters about the individual countries were just as quirky. Evidently in Germany, "...the Bavarians and southern Germans [are] more easy-going, more artistic, and apparently more good-natured, than their brothers farther north."

And if you are in France, remember this: "The rule between married and unmarried women is very sharply drawn in France. A married woman may go anywhere her husband chooses to take her, and read any book which he does not forbid; but unmarried women do not as a rule read French novels nor go to most of the theatres, unless the piece is unobjectionable."

But having said that, I loved the introduction to the book, where she talks about American prejudices.

Unless travellers are willing to leave national prejudices behind them, and ready to see whatever is characteristic and excellent in a foreign country, without finding fault because it is unfamiliar, they had better remain at home. Americans are among the worst offenders in this regard; and there is no greater nuisance than the man who growls because he cannot get buckwheat cakes, or the woman who fusses when she has to do without iced-water. If people carry fixed habits from place to place, as the tortoise does its shell, they will be wise to arrange their journeys so as to permit of their remaining in countries where they may be comfortable without too much effort. Remember, when you go to a strange country, that its inhabitants have not sent for you; you go among them, presumably, of your own accord, and their manners and customs cannot possibly seem stranger to you than yours do to them. It is scarcely worth while to go to Europe for the purpose of proclaiming all the time that America is in every way better; if that is your opinion you may show it by going home, and never leaving it again.

Posted by
2267 posts

Mardee- This is amazing! I'll look forward to digging deeper into the text.

Thanks!

Posted by
568 posts

Oh, wow, thanks for sharing this! The introduction rings true today. I like this peek into the history of American travel to Europe and plan to read this book. I love the quote advising against "offering an opportunity to adventurers" - isn't that the purpose of solo travel, ladies? Depending on the "adventure" of course! :)

Posted by
14175 posts

"Remember, when you go to a strange country, that its inhabitants have not sent for you; you go among them, presumably, of your own accord, and their manners and customs cannot possibly seem stranger to you than yours do to them. It is scarcely worth while to go to Europe for the purpose of proclaiming all the time that America is in every way better; if that is your opinion you may show it by going home, and never leaving it again."

Oh my...this is wonderful! I love "It's inhabitants have not sent for you"!!!! Priceless!

And yes, Kathy, let's set forth and adventure!

What a fun find. Thanks so much for sharing!

Posted by
413 posts

Those tips aren’t terrible. Children can be a nuisance even (or especially) to their parents, and based on concerns about dress on the forum, no one, lady or otherwise, wants to be conspicuous. But the stuff about women in France? Wow. I’ll have to avoid France lest I be seen as loose for reading a novel and daring to go to the theater. ;)

But some things never change. We demanded ice water even then. Wonder what their books said about coming to the US.

Posted by
6850 posts

Oh my...this is wonderful! I love "It's inhabitants have not sent for you"!!!! Priceless!

I know, Pam - I think this was my favorite sentence!

Posted by
8597 posts

Excellent! Thank you. I remember my first German language book, original publication date of 1922 or so. It had an illustration of two old Bavarian men (with fez-type hats) on a park bench, one saying to the other, "oh for the old days when we were allowed to shoot at the Prussians."

Posted by
6850 posts

Ha ha, Stan! That is funny!

Scudder, you're welcome - I just had to share this!

Kathy, true, although I think she's referring to adventur-ers. :) You know, those curs who would take advantage of us fragile women.😂

KC, no idea about coming to the US - but it would be worth a search on the LOC to see. :)

Posted by
1998 posts

Women who have no man to look after them! LOL I love it-especially as it usually worked the other way.

Posted by
8212 posts

I have such a classic book about camping. It's from the eyes of a British gentleman traveling in Africa with a bunch of native porters. Like on safari. It's pretty funny too.

I agree with the statement about traveling with little children. We left our daughter with my parents until age 11. Still cannot imagine traveling with a bunch of people on a long European trip.

Posted by
7404 posts

Times definitely were different! Although the intro paragraph showed there still can be some similarities. I’m picturing people walking around with their tortoise shells, wanting to stay in their protective bubble while experiencing the world - great analogy! LOL!

My mom shared a story with me years before she passed away that her aunt & uncle and family came to visit my grandparents in Iowa. While there, they invited my mom to come back with them by train to their home in Vancouver, B.C. My mom didn’t go because she would have needed to ride the train alone to return home afterwards. The story made me sad. My mom eventually did at least see their home years later when she visited us in Seattle, and we took her up to see it.

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14175 posts

Ok, I’ve more or less successfully downloaded it to my Kindle app. There is a disclaimer saying

The book pages were scanned and converted to EPUB format automatically. This process relies on optical character recognition, and is somewhat susceptible to errors.

I do see some weird characters and formatting errors right away BUT it’s easier for me to read it on the iPad Mini Kindle app. And besides, I have the Kindle monkey on my back of #of days on a reading streak so I need credit!! 🙄🧐😁

Thank you again Mardee for this fun link. Maybe I’ll save it to read on my flight, lol!!

Posted by
9787 posts

Mardee, this is an absolute jewel. Thank you for sharing !

Posted by
330 posts

Marlee, this is absolutely a treasure! Thanks for posting!

Posted by
1998 posts

Actually, the writer has a lot of good advice that Rick still preaches. Embrace the new, don't be an obnoxious American and ask for American items and even a section on art. She predated Rick Steves by 70 years!

Posted by
6850 posts

I was just going through it again and found a step-by-step guide on how to bargain with vendors in Italy. See page 213-214. And all I have to do after I buy the article is send it to my banker and he will have it professionally packed! I wish it was that easy now!

Heather, I agree - she talks about "slow travel" vs. jumping around from place to place. Of course, her "slow" travel is a stay of 3-4 months in Europe :)

Kim, I thought the section about France would appeal to you!

Janis, that cracked me up - those "idle men and boys"!

Cathy, glad you like it!

Jean, what a touching and sad story about your mom. I should tell you that when my daughter was 5 years old, my sister moved to LA and asked if she could bring my daughter along for the ride. So she did and then flew back by herself. But back then the airlines were very different - she was kept with a flight attendant or employee every step of the way. Still a little scary though.

Posted by
1998 posts

So as I am going to Germany I decided to consult the book. My findings.

Germans won't mind if you tip them less than others in Europe. They work cheap. And as a woman, Germany is much more relaxed about women going out and dining without a man.

I can still travel by horse cart in rural Germany but I need to ask my innkeeper for driver recommendations. I then fake knowing anything about horses but ask to see the them and both men will be amazed that a lady knows anything about horses.

Ms. Jones will think me quite gauche as I am traveling by first class ICE trains. As she says, only princes and Americans travel first class. Apologies but I like having no one sitting next to me.

Germans speak English better than most other Europeans because of all the relatives moving to America. As they love Americans, all I have to say is that America is like a new Germany and Germans will adore me!

And Ms. Jones says that Germany and French will always be intimate enemies. She didn't realize that in another decade-they'd become real enemies.

Now I have to look up England.

Posted by
14175 posts

@ heather! That is hilarious. I, too, have started the gauche American travel custom of 1st class on trains...since Covid I prefer not to have a seatmate.

Posted by
330 posts

Mardee~
First, my iPad autocorrected to Marlee…so sorry!
Second….in 1918, my grandmother traveled by train from Cleveland to Alabama to marry my grandfather, who was stationed there in WWI. She soon found herself surrounded by young men who were bound and determined to ward off any untoward advances by “older men” during her journey. She was always very independent, and tried to explain that she was just fine, but they stayed close by for the entire trip, and “delivered” her to my grandfather at the train station. They were horrified that she would take such a chance.

Posted by
6850 posts

Heather, ha ha!!! It's a good thing you'll have that book to rely on for etiquette information!! 🤣

Cathy, no worries! It happens frequently! lol And what a cool story about your grandmother! That's so sweet! Can you imagine living back then? What a world it must have been...

Posted by
512 posts

Actually, I have been known to growl when I do get my buckwheat cakes.

Posted by
2871 posts

Thank you Mardee! I love old books. And now have a new guidebook to read besides Rick’s.

Posted by
6850 posts

Ha ha, horsewoofie - yes, definitely a book to travel by, lol!

Craig, too funny!

Posted by
8597 posts

Don't keep us in suspense - tell us what the tipping guidance was for a lady of 1900.

Posted by
6850 posts

Thanks, Craig! And Stan, ha ha! That said, I will definitely check that out and let you know. 😉