“Send Me a Postcard! Women on the Road across 19th-20th Century America” highlights women’s voices and their stories across America’s roadways. Though travel has generally been associated with men, and the male prerogative of exploration, investment, and research, women have always been on the move. Women traveled for a variety of reasons including education and knowledge, general ambition, a sense of adventure and a new freedom and mobility to move outside of their traditional sphere. This exhibition examines the experiences of women travelers. From a group of college students on a summer road trip, to an anthropologist documenting the American Southwest, from trips to National Parks to visits to zoos, diners to dives, encounters with hitchhikers, bikers and natives, these manuscripts and narratives are full of memories and adventures and represent a variety of perspectives.
Included in the exhibit are trailblazers such as: Blanche Stuart Scott, the first person to inaugurate a transcontinental motor trip for the purpose of interesting women in the value of motor car driving; Alice Huyler Ramsey, the first woman to drive an automobile across the United States from coast to coast in 1909; Harriet White Fisher Andrew, the first woman to circle the globe in a Locomobile. Also highlighted are everyday ladies on family vacations and girl’s trips. Elizabeth Dalrymple who motored with her friends from Pennsylvania to Colorado in 1940 said of travel: “never worry about getting lost out here in the great open spaces, as every road eventually leads to somewhere, no matter how lonely or how long.” Documents such as these provide invaluable insight women’s experiences traveling and what life was like for women on the road. While no two experiences are alike, together these narratives weave together women’s shared experiences with life on the road, demonstrating in fact “women can handle an automobile just as well as men.”
“Send Me a Postcard” features materials from the DeGolyer Library’s holdings of rare books, pamphlets, ephemera and manuscripts holdings, including the Archives of Women of the Southwest.
The concept for this exhibit emerged in the summer of 2019, when I was browsing through collections in search of a summer-themed blog post. I came across a scrapbook by Elizabeth Dalrymple which documented her road trip from Pennsylvania to Colorado in the summer of 1940. Along for the ride were a few of her girlfriends. From parks to zoos, diners to dives, encounters with hitchhikers and bikers, this manuscript is full of memories and adventures, an almost epic story of a trek to the west across more than dozen states.
This particular manuscript felt so familiar and relatable to me, as though it captured a trip I took with my own friends. The pages are filled with delightful poetry, limericks, and insightful wonderful words of wisdom about traveling. There are simply too many enjoyable stories to list them all. I found myself laughing out loud in the stacks as I read through their adventures, and often thought this would have happened to me.
Documents such as these provide invaluable insight women’s experiences traveling and what life was like for women who traveled. So I sought out other examples of women on the road, and documents describing how women experienced travel across America. The culmination of my exploration into the stacks was a treasure trove of stories and photographs of women with their friends and with their families; of women whose professions involved writing about travel in personal narrative and official guidebooks; of a multitude of ephemera and postcards signed off with the ever iconic phrase “Wish you were here!”