Before I begin to share edited parts of my thesis, I felt it was necessary to have this post, which will hopefully be the only one that sound remotely like I could be standing on a soapbox while writing it. -Maria
Here on the blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter, you have read my description of the three travelers as being young women, and certainly in one respect they were. That language, however, is from today’s lens. When I go on this trip I will be a young woman. In 1929, the three were not young women, that phrase was not used like it is today. The three were referred to as girls in the article written about them after their trip, despite being in their twenties at the time. Dotty’s wedding announcement proclaimed her a “Girl Traveler” in its headline. They were not alone either with this descriptive phrase. I encountered other sources from that time referring to female travelers as girls: “Just Girls: They Motor Across Half the Continent and Over the Rockies” (1925) is another period example.
Eighty-four years later, I would not like to be called a girl traveler. Girl, to me, infers someone younger, not someone in one’s mid-twenties, like I am. “Young Woman Traveler” may not roll off the tongue like “girl traveler” but that’s what I am, and I’ll accept “Female Traveler” as well (but that could drift into another topic entirely as female does not necessarily equal woman in meaning today). “Young Woman” it’s a product of our time now, just as how in 1929, Dotty, Edie, and Ev, being “girls” was a product of their time.
Throughout my thesis, I used the term girls to describe the three, as, if I had to speculate, it is likely how they identified themselves, at least in some circles, but likely not all. There was a lot of thought put into my use of the word, followed by a bit of discussion with my professors before consensus was reached on the term I used.
So if you see me call them girls, or refer to them as girl travelers, please know that I have spent much time about the use of that word and phrase.