A Letter to a Lady Traveller from a Bygone Age

My Dear Miss Parrish,

I do hope that you will forgive this intrusion, but I came across your name recently, purely by chance, and I felt that I must write.

You will, I am sure, be pleased to here that one author has just published, and another is about to publish, a book inspired by the travels of ladies like yourself.

Francesca Brill has written ‘The Harbour,’ a novel set in Hong Kong during the Second World War. It is a wonderful, vibrant story (though you may consider it a little racy) and she gives credit to the works of a number of other authors, including Emily Hahn. And I have been reading about another novel that will be published very soon, ‘A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar’ by Suzanne Joinson. While reading I saw references to the names of two more lady travellers, names that I am quite sure will be familiar to you: Isabel Eberhart and Ella Maillart.

I was inspired to find out more about all three lady travellers, and so I pulled a book from the shelf that I knew would tell me a little more about them before I investigated their writings further.

It is a wonderful book and I found all three of those ladies, and many others who I am sure you will know. Kate O’Brien, Freya Stark, Isabella Bird, Beryl Markham, Margaret Fountaine …

And this is when I spotted your name, and I was curious to learn who you were.

I am so glad I looked, because the editors wrote about you so very well.

“In her memoir, Maud Parrish relates her life of madcap adventure with the breathless, excitable energy of one who cannot stand still. Parrish worked as a dance-hall girl in Dawson City, Yukon, and Nome, Alaska, and operated a gambling house in Peking at the turn of the century. With her ‘Nine Pounds of Luggage’ and a banjo, she claimed to have gone around the world sixteen times, up and down continents, and around and about exotic islands. Parrish died at the age of 98. ‘Nine Pounds of Luggage’ was her only book.”

What spirit you had, what a wonderful life, and what an extraordinary period of history you lived through!

I had to read on, to read a little of your story in your own words, and I am so glad I did. It was quite marvellous!

“So I ran away. I hurried more than if lions had chased me. Without telling him. Without telling my mother or father. There wasn’t any liberty in San Francisco for ordinary women. But I found some. No jobs for girls in offices like there are now. You got married, were an old maid, or went to hell. Take your pick.”

I knew that I had to seek out a copy. I checked with the library, but there was not one single copy to be found in the county. And so I looked to see if any book dealers had copies, but there were very few copies to be found, all priced at more than one hundred pounds. A sum far beyond my limited means!

I am terribly disappointed, but I do have the works of many pioneering ladies that were published over the years as Virago Travellers to enjoy. Some from my own shelves, two that I have been inspired to order, and a few more that I can reserve at the library.

But I should like to add your book to my collection. If there is anything you could do to persuade some enterprising publisher to bring it back into print I should be most grateful, and I am sure that there are many others who would love to read it too,

With the warmest regards,

Fleur Fisher

6 responses

  1. This does sound interesting – another to check the library for.

    I don’t know why but the last two comments you left me didn’t appear on the blog. Just want you to know I did read them through my email – thanks!

  2. She sounds brilliant! I must have a look at our library just in case although I suspect the Virago book will be easier to come by!

  3. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I have forwarded information to several friends who have daughters who have traveled. And my mother has put it on her list to purchase for my niece – she lived in Europe for five years while in high school and just spent the summer in New Zealand. What a great resource.

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