“The magnitude of our undertaking dawned on us”: Victorians Go Camping


Check out Liva Gershon’s piece at JSTOR Daily: “How the Victorians Went Camping.”  She builds it off of Phoebe Kropp’s 2009 article in the Journal of Social History: Wilderness Wives and Dishwashing Husbands: Comfort and the Domestic Arts of Camping in America, 1880-1910.”

Here is a taste of Gerson’s piece:

Camping brought the domestic work typically done by women into full view. One woman described her husband’s enjoyment of washing dishes in a creek, scouring them with mud and moss. “This recognition prompted the question of who exactly produced the comforts of civilization in an era where the definition of home came to center upon the purported absence of productive labor,” Kropp writes.

For many well-to-do campers, of course, the people who actually did much of the domestic labor at home were servants. That raised the question of whether to bring hired help along on a camping trip. Some families saw camping as a vacation from managing servants, while others appreciated not having to cook or wash the dishes themselves.

In other cases, campers hired “guides” who might explain the local landscape, handle unpleasant chores, and contribute to the campers’ spirit of adventure by embodying entertaining stereotypes. “The ‘Canuck guide,’ the ‘Chinaman cook,’ and the ‘Indians’ became stock characters in some campers’ stories, who contributed equal parts expertise and ethnic flavor,” Kropp writes.

Read the entire piece here.