In 1873, Isabella Bird began her exploration of the territory of Colorado on the eve of its statehood. A rugged and dangerous part of the country, Colorado was largely considered unsuitable for women travelers. Isabella Bird defied these stereotypes by riding and hiking through a Colorado that was primarily full of male miners and ranchers. The settlements were primitive and rough in nature. Bird battled the elements by being one of the first women to climb Longs Peak and extensively explore the region. Her travels are recorded in her book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.
Isabella Bird: New Perspectives on the American West uses Bird’s experiences as a lens through which to understand the history of Colorado on the verge of statehood. Bird’s papers and photographs provide a unique view of the rough culture on the Western frontier in the late nineteenth century, offering significant insights into early Colorado’s settlements and nature. Bird’s letters have been collected and transcribed to facilitate a textual and spatial analysis that revels new insight to this understudied female perspective of life on the American frontier. The main project site, created using Drupal, allows users to interact with the Bird letters both through textual analysis and a map of her journey. This digital project aims to present the female perspective of the American West and travel in the late nineteenth century in a scholarly and interactive way that engages viewers on a wide spectrum of academic levels.