Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. London: John Murray, 1881.
Reason read: Colorado became a state on August 1st, 1876.
In what started as letters to her sister Isabella Bird paints vivid pictures of a very young Colorado as she travels from the Sandwich Islands to Estes Park, Colorado. Because the trip to the Hawaiian islands is so fresh in Bird’s mind, she can’t help but make interesting comparisons between the tropical island and the wild western plains. She even wears the same clothes in both climates. As with Bird’s other adventures, her courage and tenacity shine through her prose. Most memorable for me was the fact Bird would don a long skirt and ride polite side saddle in the company of men but alone she would wear pants and ride western style. Comfort, not propriety, was her ultimate goal.
As an aside, it is encouraging to think there is a wilderness in Colorado that still exists to this day; one that Isabella Bird would say looks exactly the same. How can one not think of Natalie Merchant’s Cowboy Romance?
Lines I liked, “Is common humanity lacking, I wonder, in this region of hard greed?” (p 27), “I longed to speak to someone who loved the mountains” (p 90) and “At this account of the ascent of Long Peak could not be written at the time, I am disinclined to write it, especially as no sort of description within my powers could enable another to realise the glorious sublimity, the majestic solitude and the unspeakable awfulness and fascination of the scenes in which I spent Monday and Tuesday (p 91).
Author fact: Bird was only 72 when she passed away. I like to think about the places she would have explored had she had more time. She was the first woman elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Book trivia: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains was originally published in 1879. Colorado was only three years old at the time. The maps and illustrations are wonderful.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains but she mentioned that Bird was “one of the more dashing and irresistible travelers” (Book Lust p 143).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “Lady Travelers” (p 142).