I've always been fascinated by stories of the intrepid Victorian Travelling Women who conquered distant desert sands and scaled rugged heights— all in proper corsets and long skirts, of course. So I was doubly honored to be included in the exhibit of Idaho's literary traveling women at the BSU Library. .
Archivist Cheryl Oestreicher, head of the BSU Special Collections, gave me a personally guided tour of "Wish You Were Here" Idaho Ladies Journey Around the World developed from artifacts, books and maps in their Special Collections.
One of the most fascinating is Clara Spiegel, wife of the Spiegel catalog magnate. Clara had a home in Sun Valley and was a friend of Earnest Hemingway. She went on African safaris in the 1950's, lived for some time in New Zealand, and wrote novels, including Instruct my Sorrows, a 1942 war story, which was made into a movie starring Barbara Stanwyck. Clara Spiegel was an intrepid hunter. I was especially amused by the special packing list of guns, ammunition and liquor Spiegel required for a two-woman safari.
Ruth McBirney was librarian at the American Library in Paris from 1947-1954, then came back to Boise Junior College to become head librarian and help the changeover to university status. While living in France Ruth traveled widely in Europe, Egypt and China. She gave financial backing to Marcel Marceau and her exhibit includes a letter from the pantomime artist and an old map of Paris.
Ann Morrison traveled the world with her civil engineer husband Harry Morrison. Paris, Morocco and Lebanon are some of the sites she visited which are featured in the display. Ann Morrison wrote a series of essays about her travels which were published in the house magazine for the Morrison-Knudsen Company The eM-Kayan. The essays were collected and published as Those Were the Days, Diary of Ann Morrison.
The exhibit of Laura Moore Cunningham's travels features her time Rome and France and the many cruises she took. Although Laura Moore Cunningham was an unflagging traveler she is best remembered for her civic work in Boise with the Childrens' Home Society, the Red Cross and Boise Junior College. Her legacy is the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation which grants scholarships for Idaho students to continue their education.
My own exhibit featured research trips I have taken in the UK for numerous books, especially my time in Norwich for A Most Inconvenient Death
, the first of my Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime books; my extensive research trip in Scotland for my historical epic The Fields of Bannockburn
; and my time in the west country of England preparing to write my Arthruian epic Glastonbury
So many of the items in the exhibit I had entirely forgotten about and was delighted to see again as I enjoyed the wonderful memories it all brought back One of my favorites was a picture of my five-year-old daughter in front of one of our B&B's thirty years ago.
The exhibit will be available to the public for several months yet. You can visit the second floor of the Albertsons Library 9-5 Monday-Friday with extended hours on Wednesdays. An excellent hint for visiting is to park in Julia Davis Park near the zoo and walk across Friendship Bridge which brings you straight to the back of the library.
Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.