As of February 2014, I don’t know much about Mary Amanda Ormsby, née Bateman. The thing I do know is that she took an extremely cool five-month trip abroad to Europe in 1889 and published her journal from the trip in 1890. She visited (for example) the site of one of the last of Jack the Ripper’s murders, a month and a day after it happened. “There were bloodstains still on the stones,” she writes. (She refers to the killings as “the Whitechapel murders,” without reference to the perpetrator.)
Most of her recollections are more ordinary, but her journal is remarkable partly for the fact that it existed and she went to the trouble of publishing it. It records many sites that are still visited today by tourists in Europe, but the snapshot she offers is from an earlier time, when tourism, and historical tourism, were just becoming an industry.
The book is such a personal collection of experiences that it is not always clear whether Mr. Ormsby was along for the trip. At some points (Antwerp, for example), he is specifically mentioned. I don’t know any of the occasion for the trip other than what is in her little volume. She must have been in her late forties when she traveled, and her children would have been in their teens and early twenties. (Were they along? All I know is what’s in the book.)
It intrigues me too to know that her granddaughter, Venita Ormsby [Consigny] Bradley, took similar trips abroad in the late 1950s. One day it would be good fun to match some of Venita’s photos with Mary’s text.
For the time being, though, I can at least offer the text she gave us, which as far as I know is not available anywhere else, except (maybe) in the Library of Congress, or on a few musty bookshelves in family archives. It is well written, cogently observed, and it moves right along. (An original copy of this book is apparently available at the Worthington [Massachusetts] Historical Society; it was donated by an Ormsby, and the society has other Ormsby memorabilia, though I am not certain where the Worthington Ormsbys are connected to the Emmetsburg Ormsbys.)
For a few samples of her straightforward prose, see this little collection of excerpts.
See the “Sources” section below for a link to a photocopy of Mrs. E.S. Ormsby’s little book.