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Campaigns of Curiosity: Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in Late Victorian London
Banks, Elizabeth L.
: University of Wisconsin Press. 2003.
256pp. [Victorian London]
ISBN: 0299189449

Casebook Review:

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.