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Single sister of the month: Isabella Bird

14 Apr

Sometimes singledom can feel like a prison. It can make you feel there are lots of things you would do, if only you had a man to do them with. As trivial as it sounds (and is), I often walk past restaurants and wish I had a man who would go there with me (I like to eat). This is a terrible way to think. I have plenty of friends who love dining out. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t call one of them and make plans to eat at the restaurant I’m longing to try. But instead, I glance sheepishly at the couples in the restaurant windows and hope one day I’ll be sitting there with Mr Lovely.

We really are living in a blessed time. I read in the Sunday Life that Ita Buttrose couldn’t even get a bank loan in the 70s because she was a woman, even though she was one of the highest paid women in Australian media. Today we can travel without a male family member, go to university, raise children without men and drink in public. (And praise be for that! So many men in relationships that I’ve surveyed have met their partners in pubs.) But I know I could use a friendly reminder every now and then that singledom can be splendid, so I’ve decided to introduce a new feature:

Single sister of the month.

It might not appear every month, but I’ll do my best.

So, without further ado, April’s single sister is Isabella Bird.

Born 15 October 1831, Ms Bird was not content with a domestic life in Cheshire, England. Instead of being a homemaker, Bird dreamed of travel — hardly the done thing for a vicar’s daughter. At 23, her father gave her £100 so she could travel to America. This trip provided the content for her first book, The English Woman in America, which was published two years later. In 1857 she went to Canada and Scotland.

In the 1870s, Ms Bird traveled to Australia (she didn’t rate it even though there wouldn’t have been much of a man-drought then) and then Hawaii, which she loved. She then moved to Colorado and rode 800 miles over the Rocky Mountains. And shock-horror, she rode astride like a man.

During her Rocky adventure, Ms Bird met the violent outlaw Jim Nugent, who had only one eye and loved poetry. She had good times with him but wrote in one letter that he was, “a man any woman might love but no sane woman would marry.” Despite all the fun I’m sure they had, Ms Bird decided to return to England. Poor old Jimmy got shot dead less than a year later.

Although Bird did marry on her return to England, she longed to travel again. In 1886, her husband died and Ms Bird decided to study medicine so she could travel as a missionary. Despite being in her late 50s, she set off for India.

Ms Bird continued to travel until her death in 1904. She had many an adventure, including traveling through North Africa on a black stallion that had been given to her by the Sultan. It was so tall she needed a ladder to mount it. So in her 72 years, Ms Bird conquered the globe, and the social boundaries of her time, despite being unmarried until she was 49.

Hurrah for our single sister, Isabella Bird!

Thank you to the glory that is the people’s encyclopaedia.
This post is dedicated to BB aka Blog the Beach, who introduced me to Ms Bird and who is an inspiring woman in her own right.