"Gwine By": Colonial women's travel literature and the West Indian marketplace

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Sandra Pouchet Paquet - Committee Chair


This study examines the writings of women who traveled in the colonial West Indies from 1774 to 1945, specifically focusing on their observations of the marketplace, a location central to the social framework of the region, where women were uniquely empowered through the traditional market practices brought to the islands by African slaves. Female travelers entered the marketplaces with attitudes of cultural supremacy that overshadowed gender concerns, and the resulting depictions of the marketplaces are as political, as concerned with nationalistic economic affairs, and as Eurocentric and authoritative as travel narratives written by men. With rare exception, these women travelers effectively position themselves as emissaries of imperial dominance who reinforce conventional views, rather than as agents of discovery and authentic representation.The travel writings are arranged to demonstrate chronological development, parallel to the historical and political conditions in the West Indies. They are broken down into broad categories of slavocracy, the post-emancipation era, the turn into the twentieth century, the period of the World Wars, and the move toward independence and away from conventional travel writing. The narratives are primarily authored by British and American women, and include more well-known voices such as Lady Maria Nugent, Julia Ward Howe, Nancy Prince, Mary Gaunt, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katherine Dunham, as well as a vast range of lesser-known but equally significant travelers.


Literature, Comparative; Women's Studies; Literature, American; Literature, English

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