Pioneering Women Writers US Road Trip Map:
Drive the route of history-making women writers.
Walk in their footsteps.
Five centuries of American women who pioneered new ways of living and writing, from autobiographical chronicles to prize-winning fiction, are featured on this interactive map that was designed in 2016. The road trip of these publicly open habitats of women writers begins with Plimoth Patuxet in Massachusetts, moves south to Florida, then through the lower Midwest, on west to New Mexico, then north, then heads east, and ends with the Rachel Carson home in Pennsylvania.
We have added several pioneering writers to this website since 2016. For an updated list, visit Author Adventures List of Writers.
Beginning in the Northeast:
- Pioneering women like Mary Ring and Martha Harding bravely boarded the Mayflower for a new land as young wives of craftsmen and kept meticulous written records about life at Plimoth Patuxet that still benefit our knowledge of history today.
“Jo March.” a character central to Louisa May Alcott‘s classic book, Little Women, was “the first American juvenile heroine to act from her own individuality –a living, breathing person rather than the idealized stereotype then prevalent in children’s fiction” (louisamayalcott.org). Adjacent to the home is the school of transcendentalism, the epicenter from which it began to flourish through New England.
- Edith Wharton was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (1921). Her best-known works are Ethan Frome, House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. She wrote more than 40 books on many subjects.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe sent publishing records into the stratosphere with an anti-slavery book that turned the world on its head, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 10,000 copies were sold in the first week in a world without phones, internet, or even automobiles. The quantity of unauthorized reprints published worldwide in its first year cannot be fully calculated but was more than a million in England alone.
New York poet Emma Lazarus, of American Jewish descent, reimagined the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. Her poem, “The New Colossus,” established it as a beacon representing opportunity and freedom for immigrants fleeing to the US.
- Pearl S. Buck, a child of missionaries, spent 40 years in China and wrote the classic novel, The Good Earth, which cast a worldwide light on the plight of Chinese women, of which very little was known at the time in the US. She won a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize. This location is the headquarters of Pearl S. Buck International, which carries on her mission “to explore and appreciate other cultures.”
- Scientist Rachel Carson‘s book, Silent Spring, was not taken seriously until the world caught up to her foresight about the damage of chemicals to the natural environment. Her writing was decades ahead of its time. Carson lived in Montgomery County and the park was named after her following her death.
- Chef Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the groundbreaking culinary book that set the standard for cooking instruction. Her kitchen is on display at the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
- Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth, winner of a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize, was born at this location.
Heading to the South:
- Thanks to historian Adelaide Fries, we have detailed historical records of Moravians in Old Salem, North Carolina, dating back to the 1700s.
- Margaret Mitchell‘s novel, Gone With the Wind, written while she was convalescing from an illness, made Mitchell an instant celebrity in 1936 and earned her the Pulitzer Prize. The movie that was based on the book became an icon of American cinema and controversial in more recent years.
- Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in 1917. Still thriving more than a hundred years later, its handbook has been an instruction book for girls on subjects ranging from survival in the wilderness to entrepreneurship.
- Anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston lived in many parts of Florida while writing novels and researching folklore. The daughter of former enslaved persons, she landed a scholarship to prestigious Barnard College, became a fixture in the Harlem Renaissance, and is best known for writing the social commentary novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The museum named for her is in the first independently governed African-American town.
- Teacher and author Martha Munzer was the first woman to earn an electrochemical engineering degree from M.I.T. She published 11 books, beginning at age 52, about conservation, ecology, and the history of her town, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. (A focal point of the book and the city is the pier, which has attracted “boatless fishers” and divers for decades.)
- Journalist and environmental activist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, whose father launched the newspaper that became The Miami Herald, was the first to devote incalculable time toward conserving the Everglades, which became Everglades National Park. She also founded the influential Friends of the Everglades in 1970. Her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, became an environmental classic.
- Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the most popular American novels about social injustice of all time, and required reading in many high schools nationwide. It also yielded an Academy Award-winning movie by the same name.
- Writer and photographer Eudora Welty won a Pulitzer Prize for the book, The Optimists Daughter. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor, and was chosen as the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series.
- The Story of My Life is the autobiography of Helen Keller who, due to a childhood illness, lost her vision and hearing. Her book, and lectures in 25 countries, raised new levels of public awareness of what it is like to manage major physical challenges throughout life and what can be accomplished with drive and determination.
On to the Midwest:
Laura Ingalls Wilder is the author of the “Little House” series about family life during the 19th century. This is the place where she wrote the classic series about frontier life.
- The first American female cartoonist, Rose Cecil O’Neill, joined the staff of Puck, a magazine of political satire, as an illustrator. She was a women’s rights activist and worked hard for the cause of giving women the right to vote. She wrote novels and poetry and was known for having a wide circle of creative and interesting friends. She was especially known as the creator of the famous Kewpie® doll.
- The Little House Museum is at the location of the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote about life on the frontier through her “Little House” books. The museum sits on the land once owned by her family.
- S.E. Hinton‘s The Outsiders, written when she was 15, was essentially the beginning point of popularity for young adult reality fiction. It won the ALA Best Young Adult Book Award. The movie theater played a central role in the book and the movie based on it, which was also filmed there.
To the Southwest:
- Willa Cather studied life at the pueblos, including Isleta Pueblo, while writing the ultimate book about the earliest years of missionaries in New Mexico, Death Comes for the Archbishop.
- Artist Georgia O’Keeffe authored One Hundred Flowers, which introduced nature in ways previously unseen that set a standard for future artists. The museum displays her work.
- Ghost Ranch offers a view to the mountain that inspired artist and writer Georgia O’Keeffe to paint. Her books and paintings educated the public on the natural beauty of the Southwest landscape.
This house is part of the hometown tour of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Willa Cather, author of Death Comes for the Archbishop, My Antonia, O Pioneers! and other groundbreaking books about life in the rugged frontier. The tour includes Cather’s modest childhood home as well as the one that bore her friendship with Annie Pavelka, the inspiration for “Antonia” of My Antonia.
To the Northern Midwest:
- DeSmet offers the historic homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” children’s book series about her family’s life on the frontier.
- This museum, a testament to Laura Ingalls Wilder, can direct you to a private family farm nearby which allows public access for a small donation. On the farm, you can see what remains of the Ingalls’ dugout house on Plum Creek. You can also wade in Plum Creek.
- Wanda Ga’g‘s Millions of Cats is known as the first picture book published by an American artist. It is one of few picture books to win a Newbery Honor award and remains the oldest American picture book in print. Her home is open to the public by appointment.
- Birchbark Books is the only independent bookstore launched and owned by an award-winning woman author. Louise Erdrich‘s many novels about Native American life are popular books for all ages.
- The museum sits on the land once owned by the family of frontier author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House” series.
- This is the hotel that the Ingalls family ran in Burr Oak when frontier life author Laura Ingalls Wilder was a child.
- Gwendolyn Brooks was a tour de force African-American poet who won the highest awards in American literature for her work, beginning with being the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950. This playground park is named after Brooks, a lifelong Chicago resident.
- Born into slavery, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth was the first black woman in US history to successfully sue a white man who had illegally purchased her five-year-old son. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was dictated to a friend because she never learned to read. Her best known speech, Ain’t I a Woman, remains required reading in many schools. In the last decades of her life, Truth made her home in Battle Creek. This museum offers the Sojourner Truth Exhibit Room which has the only known copy of her signature.
- Ellen G. White authored countless books and articles related to vegetarianism and health. She helped launch the Seventh Day Adventist denomination. Her home is part of Historic Adventist Village and is where she wrote books that would become Seventh Day Adventist standards.
- The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati is where the author of the worldwide record-setting anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived before she was married. Abraham Lincoln was said to have coyly suggested the novel led to the Civil War.
Return to the East Coast:
- The Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale is the birthplace and childhood home of environmentalist and author Rachel Carson. Her four books gained considerable attention decades after they were published, the most successful being Silent Spring.
An interactive map was designed here: http://j.mp/2fBWQSv.