Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carol Mattingly


Recovering a forgotten woman writer from the nineteenth century, Prodigal Daughters and Pilgrims in Petticoats: Grace Greenwood and the Tradition of American Women's Travel Writing focuses on the public letters of Grace Greenwood (Sara Jane Clarke Lippincott). In the 1870s, Greenwood successfully communicated feminist ideas as the first woman employed by the New York Times and one of the first women to enter Congressional press galleries. In her letters, often on the front-page of the paper, Greenwood addresses the major woman's rights issues of the time: equal pay, coverture laws, male violence, gender restrictions, educational opportunities, and woman's suffrage. This unique political column from a non-voter also directly addresses other topics from Congressional debate such as western expansion, Reconstruction, and party politics. As a travel correspondent in the American West and Europe, Greenwood calls for a reform of the Republic with the objectivity her traveling allows. As an observer of the political process in Washington, Greenwood highlights the irony of a democratic system with a wholly undemocratic treatment of women. This analysis of her humorous social Commentary in the context of American women's travel writing reclaims Greenwood's contributions to nineteenth century women's reform efforts. Chapter One surveys various travel theories and suggests a metaphor for understanding American women's travel writing within this larger context. Using a revision of scripture that Greenwood also employed, I propose a narrative of a prodigal daughter as a framework in which to read American women's travel writing. Chapter Two provides a brief biographical sketch of Greenwood and an overview of her considerable literary accomplishments. Greenwood's fashioning of a frontier feminotopia is the subject of Chapter Three; I assess Greenwood's attention to the American West and her resulting politics of place. In Chapter Four, I review Greenwood's Washington correspondence, recognizing the clever wit with which Greenwood rails against the politics of both church and state. Highlighting Greenwood's celebration of sisterhood as a universal support for women, Chapter five analyzes Greenwood's politics of gender in her European escapades. This dissertation establishes Grace Greenwood as a nineteenth-century writer worthy of further inquiry.