UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Peak performances : cultural and autobiographical constructions of the Victorian female mountaineer MacLachlan, Jill Marie


In this study, I conduct a cultural analysis of a range of neglected English-language books, articles, lectures, drawings, paintings and photographs produced by three generations of nineteenth-century women mountaineers who climbed and published visual and verbal accounts of their mountain adventures within the context of Victorian Anglo-imperialism (1850-1914). The women whose works I analyse include British travellers: Mrs. Henry Warwick Cole, Mrs. Henry Freshfield, Elizabeth Tuckett, Frederica Plunket, and Elizabeth Le Blond; and American women Annie Peck and Fanny Bullock Workman. In an effort to help counter the reductive tendencies of existing sourcebooks about women travellers and mountaineers, I have attempted to situate these texts and images produced by women mountaineers within the literary, geographical, and historical-cultural moments of their production and circulation. In so doing, I have also sought: 1) to gain insight into some of the material, ideological, and discursive factors which may have impeded or facilitated Victorian women's ability to participate freely and equally in the male-dominated cultures of travel and mountaineering, and which also may have affected the ways in which they represented their public identities and their travels; 2) to explore how, in their books, articles, lantern slide lectures and publicity photos, individual female climbers exploited, negotiated around, or subverted these constraints in their attempts to publicly perform facets of their identities and their relationships to Victorian ideologies of gender, race, class, and sexuality.

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