The University of Wisconsin Press

Journalism / Autobiography / Women's Studies / History


Campaigns of Curiosity
Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in Late Victorian London
Elizabeth L. Banks
Introduction by Mary Suzanne Schriber and Abbey Zink

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

Investigative journalism 1890s style

In the early 1890s American journalist Elizabeth L. Banks became an international phenomenon through a series of newspaper articles aptly titled "Campaigns of Curiosity." Following the lead of pioneering woman journalist Nellie Bly, Banks gained notoriety through undercover assignments as a "stunt girl." Disguising herself in various (and often hilariously inappropriate) costumes, Banks investigated and made public the working conditions of women in London. Writing from the perspective of an unrepentant American girl, she explored and exposed a variety of employment, ranging from parlor maid to flower girl to American heiress. Through her writings, Banks demonstrated the capability of women for positions in newsrooms and other traditionally male journalistic spaces to which women sought entry. For her efforts, which originally were only to support her while she made attempts at serious journalism, Banks became the subject of poems and songs and acquired instant fame.

Originally published in 1894, this autobiography offers insights into the development of women journalists and the cultural discourses and subsequent rhetorical practices of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Banks's autobiography is one of the few—if not the only—complete works of 1890s women's stunt journalism in print.

Elizabeth L. Banks (1870–1938) was born in New Jersey and raised on a Wisconsin farm. After graduating from Milwaukee–Downer Female Seminary, she worked as a typist and part-time reporter. In the course of her career she worked as secretary to the American ambassador in Peru, "stunt girl," yellow journalist, author, investigative reporter, and freelance writer in both England and the United States.

Mary Suzanne Schriber is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of Writing Home and Gender and the Writer's Imagination and editor of Telling Travels. Abbey Zink is assistant professor of English at Western Connecticut State University.

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the cover of Banks's book is an orange beige, with old style type and an old oval portrait of Banks.

October 2003

LC: 2003045835 DA
256 pp.  6 x 9
15 b/w illustrations
Paper ISBN 978-0-299-18944-0
Cloth ISBN 978-0-299-18940-2

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