- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 692 KB
- Print Length: 163 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Victorian London Ebooks (7 April 2012)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007SCX46K
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #298,628 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London (Victorian London Ebooks Book 11) Kindle Edition
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She wrote about the plight of the lower classes and the articles included here are the result of her undercover work as (1) housemaid, (2) street sweeper, (3) Covent Garden flower girl, and (4) laundry girl. In addition there's a section on the "Almighty Dollar" in which she recounts her experiences posing as an American heiress seeking help breaking into upper class society. She shows how some English aristocrats sold their social influence with only regard for making money. However, she also exposes the "shoddiness" of some of these Americans looking for upward mobility.
When Banks originally set off for England in 1892 (I believe), her parting injunction by her editor was "Don't forget that you are an American and are going to England simply to compare the inferiorities of that country with the superiorities of your own." And, indeed, one of her first articles upon arriving was "An American Girl's Reply to Mr. Kipling" printed in response to Kipling's criticisms of America in the Times. That was the beginning of her journalistic career in London.
This collection of articles was originally published as CAMPAIGNS OF CURIOSITY; Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London, published in 1894. In it she relates her adventures and her insights into life as a lower-class working girl. The articles are a great look at how these women lived and, although not completely unbiased, are a rather fair expose of working conditions and the relationship of upper and lower classes. This is an informative read, well written with surprising modern writing style, and with some great understated humor.
Many years ago I read Monica Dickens' similar books ('One Pair of Hands,' 'One Pair of Feet' and 'My Turn to Make the Tea'), and was delighted to come across this earlier version. Although 'Lizzie's' investigations don't match those of Dickens either in time spent or in humour, they are no less detailed. My one reservation about the account by the 'American girl' is that her fairly privileged upbringing sometimes betrays her into appearing to take the side of the employers more than she perhaps should have. It seems that following her reports she discovered that many servants felt that too.
This in no way spoils the various accounts, though. This is definitely a book worth reading if you have any interest at all in social history or the working lives of others - even now there are probably many young women in India whose days are not very different from those of young working women in Victorian London.