Book Press Release

Scidmore Book Press Release (download as PDF)



Author Diana Parsell | | |
OUP Senior Publicist Amy Packard Ferro |


Female ‘Forrest Gump’ of 19th-c. Journalism Blazed Trails
to Modern Tourism, Pushed for D.C.’s Cherry Trees

Scidmore book coverWASHINGTON, D.C. (March 2023) — At a time when few Americans ventured far beyond their own backyards, the intrepid journalist Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore took to the road writing about the world for readers back home. While still in her 20s, she visited more places than most people would see in a lifetime. By the turn of the century her travels were so legendary she was introduced at a meeting in London as “Miss Scidmore, of everywhere.”

Author Diana Parsell reveals Scidmore’s remarkable—yet long overlooked—life story for the first time in Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington’s Cherry Trees (Oxford U. Press, March 2023).

Born on the American frontier just before the Civil War, Scidmore (1856–1928) was a “Forrest Gump” of her day who bore witness to important events and hobnobbed with famous people like John Muir, Alexander Graham Bell, First Lady Helen Taft and the Viceroy of India. In four decades as a journalist and travel writer, Scidmore:

  • popularized Alaska in two groundbreaking travel books
  • advocated for wilderness preservation in the early U.S. conservation movement
  • became National Geographic’s first female board member and photographer
  • roamed the Far East for three decades, producing popular books on Japan, Java, China and India.

In her best-known legacy, Scidmore helped shape the landscape of modern Washington, D.C., in her obsessive quest to have Japanese cherry trees planted along the Potomac.

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. 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.”

For further information or interview requests, please contact Diana Parsell via her website (; by email (above); or through Oxford senior publicist Amy Packard Ferro (



About the author:

Diana ParsellDiana Parsell has worked as a writer, editor and journalist for print and online 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. In support of her book, she received a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography and the Hazel Rowley Prize from Biographers International (BIO). Visit her website at


About the book:

 Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington’s Cherry Trees
(Oxford University Press, March 2023)
448 pp/46 illustrations | ISBN: 978-0198869429
Hardcover U.S. price: $32.95 | Also published in the U.K.

Now available through major booksellers including Bookshop.orgPolitics & Prose in D.C., Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Order directly from Oxford’s website using the promotion code AAFLYG6 to receive a 30% discount.


(for Oxford University Press, use code AAFLYG6 for 30% discount)