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Isabella Bird

Writer / Explorer

Born: 15 October 1831
Died: 7 October 1904
Birthplace: Boroughbridge, England
Best known as:

The author of A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

Name at birth: Isabella Lucy Bird

Isabella Bird was an English missionary and explorer of the 19th century, known best for her books The Englishwoman in America and A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. Her father, a Church of England minister, gave her some money and sent her to America in 1854, partly in the belief that such a journey would help her overcome some undetermined illness. Her compiled travel articles were published in 1856 as The Englishwoman in America, and thereafter Bird had a long career as a travel writer, explorer, photographer and all-around adventurer. She visited Canada, Scotland, Australia and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) all before 1873, when she took a cross-continental trip that included riding and walking 800 miles through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Her letters back to her sister, Henrietta ("Henny"), became one of Bird's best known books, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, published in 1879. Her poetic descriptions and a would-be romance with "Mountain Jim" Nugent, a one-eyed desperado, helped make the book a bestseller at the time and a classic of the genre. Even after her 60s, she traveled to India, Tibet, the Persian Gulf, Japan, China, Korea and Morocco. Later in life, Bird spent her energy setting up missionary hospitals in remote areas, all the while enjoying a certain celebrity back home for her articles and books. She became the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society in 1892, and in 1897 she was inducted into the Royal Photographic Society. Her books include Unbeaten Tracks to Japan (1880), Among the Tibetans (1894) and The Yangtze Valley and Beyond (1899). 

Extra credit:

Isabella Bird married John Bishop in 1881, but he died just after their fifth anniversary... She was just under five feet tall and usually traveled unarmed, alone.

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More on Isabella Bird from Infoplease:

  • Isabella Bird - Bird, Isabella: Bird, Isabella: see Bishop, Isabella Lucy (Bird).

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


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