Book Press Release

Groundbreaking Biography of D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Visionary

Captures the Romance of Travel a Century Ago


Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington’s Cherry Trees

by Diana P. Parsell


Due for release March 1, 2023, from Oxford University Press

Scidmore book coverWASHINGTON, D.C. (January 2023) — In an era when most Americans spent their entire lives in their own backyards, the intrepid journalist Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore took to the road writing about the world for readers back home.

Born on the American frontier just before the Civil War, Scidmore (1856–1928) became a “Forrest Gump” of her day who bore witness to important events and hobnobbed with famous people like John Muir, Alexander Graham Bell and First Lady Helen Taft. By her mid-20s, she had visited more places than most people would see in a lifetime. By the end of the nineteenth century, her travels were so legendary she was introduced at a meeting in London as “Miss Scidmore, of everywhere.”

Scidmore helped popularize Alaska tourism, the lent her voice to the burgeoning U.S. conservation movement and educated readers about Japan and other places in the Far East. At the early National Geographic, she made a lasting mark as the first woman elected to its board (in 1892) and to have photographs in the magazine. Her story has strong international elements, as she authored books on Alaska, Japan, Java, China, and India, and a novel based on the Russo-Japanese War.

In her best-known legacy, Scidmore carried home from Japan an idea that helped shape the landscape of modern Washington, D.C.: she initiated the idea of planting cherry trees in  newly created park built 0n a former mud bank along the Potomac River.

In this deeply researched and briskly written biography, author Diana Parsell draws heavily on Scidmore’s own writings to follow major events of a half-century ago as see through the eyes of a remarkable woman who was well ahead of her time.

Advance reviewers have praised the book for its revelations. “At last, the bold and adventurous Eliza Scidmore has the biography she deserves,” notes Amy Stewart, New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist and the Kopps Sister Series. Cathy Newman, author of Women Photographers at National Geographic, says the book will elevate Scidmore to “the canon of women explorers like Gertrude Bell and Nellie Bly.”

The author is available for media interviews and author talks. Contact publicist Amy Packard Ferro ([email protected]) or the author via the contact form on this website.


About the author:

Diana Parsell is a former journalist and science writer with wide-ranging editorial experience. She has worked for publications including National Geographic and The Washington Post, and for science organizations in Washington and Southeast Asia. A graduate of Marietta College in her native Ohio, she has master’s degrees from the University of Missouri and Johns Hopkins University. Her major awards include a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography and the 2017 Hazel Rowley Prize from Biographers International Organization (BIO).


Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington’s Cherry Trees

From Oxford University Press

448 pp/46 illustrations

ISBN: 978-0198869429

Hardcover U.S. price: $32.95/Ebook: to come

Also being published in the U.K.


Now available (for pre-order) through Politics & Prose, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and OUP’s website as well as independent booksellers. If ordering from Oxford’s website,, use the promotion code AAFLYG6 to receive a 30% discount.