Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London

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

  • Title: Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London
  • Author: Elizabeth L. Banks Lee Jackson
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 281
  • 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.

    One thought on “Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London”

    1. First of all, this is not a novel. It's a collection of actual newspaper articles written in the 1890s by American journalist Elizabeth Banks (1872-1938), recounting some of her "undercover" experiences in Victorian English society. This was quite the find for me. It's a fascinating read by a pioneering woman who lived a fascinating life. (Just google her. You'll be amazed. College graduate, then typewriter girl, then society reporter, then secretary at the American Consulate in Peru, then "stun [...]

    2. This book was remarkable in so many ways. First, that the author was an employed female journalist in 1894. That alone is impressive but the fact that she goes undercover into several job positions for research purposes takes quite a bit of fortitude and nerve, even in present times. She was very forward thinking and must have been an exceptional woman. Her ideas and opinions are more the norm for 2013 rather than over 100 years ago.

    3. I like it!Reading about a time long gone; I love reading about history first hand account. It's better than fiction because life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

    4. History is always fascinated me. I love to look into other worlds and other times to see how people dealt with the day to day. Recently, Bernadette and I have started to watch Downton Abbey, a show about Victorian England and the different classes of people. So far, I have enjoyed watching how the aristocratic and servant classes work together in their society. It is interesting to see their struggles as well as the cooperation and support they provide each other. This series prompted me to lear [...]

    5. Fascinating and Witty ObservationsThis is a set of stories written by a female journalist as she explored London, circa 1890s. They are both interesting and funny, as the author wrote with great intelligence and humor about conditions of the working class women of her time. Miss Banks immersed herself in the jobs she was researching and poked fun at herself in the meanwhile, while making suggestions (mostly improbable) to improve the situations. She also included comparisons of English tradition [...]

    6. This interesting book is a compilation of newspaper articles written by an American in London. Banks took several temporary jobs doing "menial" jobs and wrote about her experiences. I thought her views were fairly balanced in that she doesn't side too heavily with either the labor or the management. Still, her background as a "lady" unused to manual labor comes through heavily, and she has a strong desire to improve the working class to make them more like herself. Because it is a series of news [...]

    7. A Victorian-era example of embedded journalism, as Miss Banks takes on work as a serving girl and laundry worker to better understand the lives of these working-class poor folks. Not particularly insightful but a charming read.

    8. If you have trouble sleeping, this is the book for you. I could not keep my eyes open! Somewhat interesting but wrote in a style that is very dull. Morning, noon or night it put me to sleep.

    9. No commentJust a mediocre book with not much to keep me interested. I don't recommend it. Not a great book. Description of Victorian London are not even very interesting.

    10. If this book was written in an armchair perspective of a priggish journalist who would only report by hearsay or with cavalier attitude toward working class, then I would not have even bothered to pick it up in the first place. What attracted me to this book was an excerpt bespeaking the author's telltale recounting of the story as an ambitious, enterprising journalist who dared to work undercover as a domestic maid and a laundry worker in Victorian London during which the social conditions of t [...]

    11. intesting take on English life in the late 1800's and the way of life of a typical mail. One wonders if this is a memoir or a concoction of a 21st century novelist. However as depicted , she seems to meld into life as a maid without too much difficulty. The fact that she was an American reporter leaves me to suspect this to be a fabrication. Was interesting

    12. Amazing autobiographical account of an intrepid women writing for a journal in London. She goes undercover to discover what it is to work the various jobs open to women in Victorian England. Very readable and extremely interesting.

    13. An excellent example of the beginnings of immersive journalism and muckraking. Offers an interesting look at a world long gone.

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