Female Gaze

Anne Maudslay and other women travelers in Mexico

British Museum

Photograph of Chichén Itzá taken by A.P. Maudslay (1881/1894) by Alfred Percival MaudslayBritish Museum

Exploration in the 19th century

When we think about Victorian explorers, we mostly think about intrepid men going into the wilderness and discovering ‘lost civilisations’, right?

Climbing ruins in far-away countries with pith helmet in hand...

Photograph of Palenque taken by A.P. Maudslay (1881/1894) by Alfred Percival MaudslayBritish Museum

...and making camp in old ruined cities...

...although with far more luggage than our modern aeroplane limits usually allow.

Women who travel

Not all intrepid explorers were male. Famous female travelers include Isabella Bird, who traveled widely through Asia, North America, and the Middle East. She was the first woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

1901, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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But with more and more women wanting to explore the world, accounts of travels written by women, as well as advice on how to best travel were very successful publications.

Book cover of "Hints to Lady Travellers", 1889/2011, From the collection of: British Museum
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A Surinam caiman fighting a South American false coral snake (1701-1705) by Maria Sibylla Merian or her daughter Dorothea GraffBritish Museum

Naturalmente,

They also encountered troubles, dangers, and problems while travelling.

Maudslay's camp on the road by A.P MaudslayBritish Museum

An explorer's life

It still included living in very basic accommodation or tents...

...and probably not very comfortable camp-beds and washing-up buckets.

Photograph of Quiriguá by A.P. Maudslay by Alfred Percival MaudslayBritish Museum

It also included a lot of side-saddle riding in difficult terrain for women.

Anne Maudslay actually had very little experience of horse-back riding before travelling through Guatemala and Mexico with her husband in 1894.

Page of Maudslay's travel notebook from 1894 (c. 1894) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Luckily, she ended up with a very sure-footed and pleasant mule.

Here her husband Alfred complains in his diary about his 'not very sure footed horse', but notes that 'Annie's mule never made a mistake and carried her without the slightest trouble'.

The faithful and friendly mule

The faithful mule never gave Anne Maudslay one of the experiences women travelers were warned about....

Plate 14 from 'Lispings from Low Latitudes', Helen Selina Blackwood, 1863, Original Source: Lispings from Low Latitudes: Or, Extracts from the Journal of the Hon. Impulsia Gushington
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Annie herself mentions that at the end of her trip, the parting was "with real regret, and the feeling that I was saying good-bye to an old and valued friend".

Maudslay's travelling party in the Guatemalan highlands, A.P. Maudslay, c. 1894, From the collection of: British Museum
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Photo of the Hacienda Zavaleta, the house of the Maudslays in Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1898-1904) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Oaxaca

From 1898 to 1906 the Maudslays spent the English winter months in Oaxaca, Mexico.

There they owned a house called Zavaleta and some mines.

Photo by Alfred Maudslay showing his wife and nephew in front of their house in Oaxaca, Mexico (1896-1904) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Pets

Pets had always been a favourite hobby of the couple, along with gardening.

Here their nephew visits Zavaleta.

Photo of Alfred Maudslay with a pet spider monkey (c. 1900) by unknownBritish Museum

This is Alfred Maudslay with a pet spider monkey.

Photo of Anne Maudslay in her living room in Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1898-1904) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

New insights

The digitisation of the Maudslay glass plate negatives also gives us a nice insight into the life of Anne Maudslay while in Mexico.

Including playing music with her husband, the sheet music are 'Duets for Mandolin and Guitar' - presumably the guitar leaning against the chair is Alfred's.

A page of Maudslay Journal 11British Museum

Fit for travelling

But of course female travelers of the time also had the disadvantage of not very practical travel clothing...

...so Anne's pack list includes petticoats and corset covers.

Cover and title page of book "A Glimpse at Guatemala" by A.C. and A.P. Maudslay (1899) by A.C. MaudslayBritish Museum

Author Anne

She published her account of the travels in the delightful book 'A Glimpse at Guatemala'...

...where her husband Alfred added his observations about the archaeological sites he had been researching for more than a decade then.

Photo of a drawing board with a line drawing of a Maya inscription by A.P MaudslayBritish Museum

Collaborators of Maudslay

But the careful digitisation of archives also lets us explore other women who contributed to Alfred Maudslay's work.

This is an image of a drawing on a drawing board, maybe one of Annie Hunter's drawings.

Drawing by Annie Hunter with her annotations to the publisher. (1890-1899) by A. HunterBritish Museum

Annie Hunter

She was one of the Maudslay's main draughtspersons and he valued her quality of work very highly.

Photo of a drawing board with a line drawing of a Maya inscription by A.P MaudslayBritish Museum

Her drawings are so detailed that many of them are still used by epigraphers today - despite the fact that she never visited any of the sites nor had any knowledge of the structure of Maya writing!

Drawing by Annie Hunter with her annotations to the publisher. (1890-1899) by A. HunterBritish Museum

The British Museum has some of her original drawings in the archives, including proofs that she has annotated with instructions for the publisher of Maudslay's work.

Photo of a portrait drawing of Lilian Elwyn Elliott/Joyce (c. 1912) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Small Mysteries

The digitisation project also included this Maudslay glass negative of a pencil drawing, with the initials KH and 1922 - we now know that it is a portrait of Lilian Elwyn Elliott by renowned Scottish artist Keith Henderson.

Lilian Elwyn Elliott was a travel writer and after 1925 the partner of T.A. Joyce, who worked at the British Museum in different positions, undertook Maya research in the 1920s, and was a friend of Maudslay. Why and how Maudslay took a photo of this drawing remains a mystery...

Photo of 2 women sitting on jaguar pelt blankets, one playing a banjo and the other crocheting. (c. 1900-1920) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Maudslay in the UK

From his diaries, letters, and the memories of his family, it is known that Maudslay brought back presents, favourite objects, and exotic pets from his travels.

This photo is a nice example - Maudslay probably took it on one of his holidays in Scotland and the two women make an otherwise typical late-19th century tableau - maybe apart from doing crochet on what seem to be jaguar pelts!

Photo showing Anne Maudslay and Gorgonio Lopez at Quirigua (c. 1894) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Glimpses

The details of Maudslay's beautiful images continue to amaze and reveal new viewpoints or different sides of accepted narratives.

Photo of Anne Maudslay and Gorgonio Lopez at Quirigua (c. 1894) by A.P. MaudslayBritish Museum

Sometimes it is even possible to connect images and text with the feeling of old friendships and gratefulness.

Credits: Story

All images © Trustees of the British Museum unless otherwise marked
Text and image selection: Claudia Zehrt, Project Curator: Americas
Thanks to: Ana Somohano Eres, Eva Jobbova and other British Museum Maya Project collaborators.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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