Isabella Lucy Bird was a ridiculously rebellious woman. What other daughter of a Victorian clergyman survives a tumor on her spine and promptly decides to travel the world, have a serious romantic affair with Wild Jim Nugent in the Rocky Mountains, and visit everywhere from Vietnam to Hawaii? She had about fourteen lives in one, traveling with British soldiers in Tehran and training as a doctor as an afterthought. She used a ladder gifted to her by Morocco’s Sultan to mount her horse, and wrote 18 volumes of observations. A scriptwriter wouldn’t even know where to start.
1831 Born Boroughbridge Hall near York Father Edward Bird, mother Dora Lawson, Edward’s second wife.
1854 7 month trip to Nova Scotia, Chicago, Ontario, Boston, New York. 1856 Published ‘The Englishwoman in America’, based on the letters she wrote home during her travels.
1857 Returned to America. 1858 Father died, Isabella and family moved to Edinburgh 18– Visited Canada to see how crofters who had emigrated from Scotland were managing.
1866 Mother, Dora Bird, died. 1872 Travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaii) where she spent 6 months and travelled with William Green, acting British consul, by mule to Mauna Loa, highest volcano on the islands. Set sail for California, America, (her original destination) and the Rockies which she explored hazardously. 1874 Returned home from Switzerland.
1875 ‘Engaged’ to Dr John Bishop. ‘The Hawaiian Archipelago: six months among the Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands’ published.
1878 Went to Japan and Malaya.
1879 Returned home. ‘A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains’ from her letters home to her sister Hennie, published 1880 Her sister Hennie died of Typhoid. ‘Unbeaten Tracks in Japan’ published.
1881 Married Bishop while distraught over her sister’s death.
1883 ‘The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither’ published.
1886 John Bishop died of anaemia.
1889 Set off for India, Tibet, returning across Persia, Armenia and Turkey. On the way, travelling with a government agent Major Herbert Sawyer, she visited Basra, Baghdad, Tehran, Isfahan, and alone rode through Kurdistan to the Black Sea, took a steamer to Constantinople, arriving in Paris 25.12.1890.
1891 First women to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. ‘Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan’ published 1894 (Aged 63) set off on a 3 year trip via Canada to China, Korea, Manchuria, Russia, Korea again, China, Japan, back to Korea and China (where she sailed up the Yangtze) back to Japan, Korea and home in March 1897. ‘Among the Tibetans’ published.