Sirpa Salenius


The Swedish novelist Fredrika Bremer (1801-1865) and the Finnish Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg (1857-1913), both active women’s rights advocates who toured in the United States in the 1850s and 1880s, respectively, used their travel writing as a powerful medium in promoting their ideological agendas. They articulated their gender politics through presenting American women as pioneers, leaders in women’s suffrage and models of female emancipation. Women’s activism in America was perceptible not only in the formally organized women’s rights movement but also in various reform movements (abolitionism, temperance, and labor movements) that contributed to women’s suffrage on a worldwide scale. As the century progressed, the women’s rights movement grew into an international collaboration of people and associations dedicated to a common cause. The travel writing of Bremer and Gripenberg offers a view of the century plagued by anxieties about gender, while it serves to advance the writer’s ideological beliefs. Thus, in addition to using fictional works and journalism to advance women’s causes, Bremer and Gripenberg instrumentalized their travels as they addressed their audience of like-minded women in their own countries—as well as abroad—informing, influencing, and empowering them. Indeed, as scholar Jennifer Steadman suggests, “representations of female travellers, like their travel texts, were gaining larger audience and were therefore impacting cultural ideas about women, travel, national identity, and citizenship” (60). It can be argued that following the model set by the “emancipated ladies” of America, women’s rights advocates in Europe, like Bremer and Gripenberg, together with international women’s associations whose concern was women’s strive for independence, contributed to a universal suffrage reform in such countries as Finland, leading women towards inclusion in full citizenship.

Author Biography

Since 2003, Sirpa Salenius has taught English and American literature at American study abroad programs in Florence and Rome (Italy) and in 2012 at the University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu, Finland). Her publications focus on the influence of Italy in the lives and works of nineteenth-century American artists and writers, including Mark Twain, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Henry James, and Harriet Hosmer. Her recent research focuses on nineteenth-century American images of Finland and Fredrika Bremer’s travel writing of the United States.