Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London original title Campaigns of Curiosity Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London Elizabeth L Banks was an ambitious young American journalist born in New Jersey raised in Wiscons
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Title: Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London
Author: Elizabeth L. Banks Lee Jackson
Format: Kindle Edition
original title Campaigns of Curiosity Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London Elizabeth L Banks 1870 1938 was an ambitious young American journalist born in New Jersey, raised in Wisconsin who worked as a typist and reporter in Balti, then took the unlikely post of secretary to the American Ambassador in Peru, before coming to London to seek he original title Campaigns of Curiosity Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London Elizabeth L Banks 1870 1938 was an ambitious young American journalist born in New Jersey, raised in Wisconsin who worked as a typist and reporter in Balti, then took the unlikely post of secretary to the American Ambassador in Peru, before coming to London to seek her fortune She achieved her goal admirably in 1894 with a form of stunt journalism that had first been practised by James Greenwood, who dressed in rags and presented himself as a casual pauper to the parish authorities, writing up his experience in his sensational article A Night in a Workhouse Banks, very much a late nineteenth century New Woman , likewise decided to go undercover amongst the poor first as a servant, then in several other positions, masquerading as a crossing sweeper, laundress and, at the opposite end of the social spectrum, pretending to be an heiress, to see how easy it might be to buy one s way into the aristocratic upper echelons of London Society Banks s ploy was successful and the resulting articles became the talk of the capital and guaranteed her a future career in journalism Her own autobiography records the words of the Pall Mall Gazette Her strange, wild and curious adventures are the common theme of conversation in thousands of English homes and, although Banks s subterfuge may not seem wild to modern readers, it remains striking It was the impersonation of a servant which caused the greatest furore, not least the fear that the upstart young American was promoting a very un British egalitarian agenda, one sympathetic to the complaints of servants against mistresses, undermining the normal healthy relations between the classes In fact, the book provides a rather too convenient comparison of two households the first where the employer exploits and over works her staff, the second where the cook and maids have the whip hand over an overly timid and caring mistress Banks herself, however, had no great political agenda She confesses frankly in her autobiography that I did it for copy to earn my living.Such was the interest in Banks s work, that the press sought out the employers who were fooled by the artful reporter Mrs Allison not her real name was interviewed by the populist Pick Me Up magazine and declared herself completely hoodwinked She claimed, however, that she only employed Miss Banks because of the pathetic story she told at interview about her penury, and that contrary to the impression in the book the cleanliness of her household suffered a good deal due to the reporter s ignorance Mrs Allison recounts how she knew there was trouble when her other maid informed her, Ma am, the new housemaid s sweeping the stairs with a bonnet whisk In short, according to Mrs Allison, her American employee did not hesitate to declare herself as competent and reliable, although she entered every house under false pretences without being able to sew on a button, darn a stocking, or scrub a floor.Banks s success was so great because her deception played on the existing fears of the middle and upper classes about servants, i.e that, when members of the family were not present, staff were incompetent and or deceptive traitors beneath one s own roof even if this only amounted to taking unwarranted perquisites from household groceries, or seeing male followers Whether Miss Banks provides us with a completely truthful account or journalistic gingerbread to quote the rather unsympathetic Pick Me Up I must leave it to the reader to judge regardless, the book remains a fascinating read.