About the Book

Scidmore book coverTitle: Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington's Cherry Trees
Published by: Oxford University Press
Release Date: March 1, 2023
ISBN13: 978-0198869429
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The first-ever biography of the pioneering woman journalist who blazed trails to modern tourism and fought to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington, D.C.

Every age has strong, independent women who defy the gender conventions of their era to follow their hearts and minds. Eliza Scidmore was one such maverick.

Born on the American frontier just before the Civil War, she rose from modest beginnings to become a journalist who roamed far and wide writing about distant places for readers back home. 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.”

In what has become her best-known legacy, Scidmore carried home from Japan the idea of planting flowering cherry trees along the riverbank of a new park in the nation's capital -- today's Potomac Park. The men in charge of the parks rebuffed her suggestion, but Scidmore persisted more than two decades until she found an ally in First Lady Helen Taft.

A female “Forrest Gump” of her day, Scidmore bore witness to major events and rubbed elbows with famous people from John Muir and Alexander Graham Bell to U.S presidents and Japanese leaders. She helped popularize Alaska tourism, educated readers about Japan and other places in the Far East, made a lasting mark at National Geographic as its first female board member and photographer, and used her influence to advocate for wilderness preservation in the emerging U.S. conservation movement. Her published work includes books on Alaska, Japan, Java, China, and India; a novel based on the Russo-Japanese War; and hundreds of articles in leading newspapers and magazines.

Deeply researched and briskly written, this first-ever biography of Scidmore draws heavily on her own writings to follow major events of a half-century as seen through the eyes of a remarkable woman who was far ahead of her time.

Praise for the Book

“To the canon of women explorers like Gertrude Bell and Nellie Bly, add Eliza Scidmore to the list of exceptionals. This meticulously researched biography brings to life the woman whose curiosity and passion for travel bought the wonder of distant lands in words and pictures to American readers.”
Cathy Newman, author of Women Photographers at National Geographic

“At last, the bold and adventurous Eliza Scidmore has the biography she deserves! Diana Parsell’s account of this groundbreaking journalist, intrepid globe-trotter, and early champion of Washington's cherry trees is inspiring, well-researched, and a compulsive page-turner. It's a thrilling look at an incredible woman and a fascinating era in history.”
Amy Stewart, New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist

“A riveting read, this comprehensive biography of Eliza Scidmore is full of surprises, demonstrating a legacy that extends far beyond her role in bringing the now-iconic cherry blossoms to Washington, D.C. Through prodigious research and vivid writing, Diana Parsell brings to life the dynamic period from America’s Gilded Age into the 1920s, when Scidmore was an eyewitness to major world events. I highly recommend this book.”
Ann McClellan, author of Cherry Blossoms and The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration

“One part writer, one part adventurer, one part cultural ambassador, and 100% tenacious — and at a time when women were supposed to linger in the shadows — Eliza Scidmore literally changed the landscape of the nation’s capital. In this terrific biography, Diana Parsell’s obsessive quest to piece together Scidmore’s extraordinary life moves this forgotten journalist from footnote to center stage.”
Lisa Napoli, author of Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR

"How many trees become tourist attractions? Berlin has its lindens, California its giant redwoods — and Washington, D.C., its cherry trees. … This lively, informative biography restores rightful credit to Eliza Scidmore.
Dominique Browning, Wall Street Journal

“Parsell effectively reclaims Eliza Scidmore’s story for history and provides an enjoyable biography that offers important insights for historians interested in environmental journalism or travel writing.”
Ken J. Ward, American Journalism

“This readable, well-researched biography will bring Eliza Scidmore back into the limelight, appealing to readers with an interest in geography, journalism, conservation, and women’s studies.”
Denise Miller, Library Journal

"Diana Parsell’s meticulous biography of the important, intrepid, though still sadly under-researched and insufficiently known, Eliza Scidmore, will be an invaluable resource for travel writing scholars and students. The interweaving of the author’s own biography with Scidmore’s history makes for a wonderful connecting of two women writers’ stories more than a century apart.”
Julia Kuehn, The University of Hong Kong

“Parsell has brilliantly rescued Eliza Scidmore, a celebrity journalist and travel writer, from obscurity.”
Susan Schoenbauer Thurin, author of Victorian Travelers and the Opening of China 1842–1907

“Parsell writes in a clear and lively style and makes thorough use of primary sources, effectively blending narrative drive with evocative detail.”
Michelle McClellan, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan