A woman treks across the United States to win a bet and save her family, and a man covers the expanse of the South and changes the way the nation thinks about environmentalism.
Husband and wife Jim Hunt and Linda Lawrence Hunt will reach into the ashes of the past to compare and contrast these two tales of adventure with their Brown Bag, “Two Travel Narratives: One Famous, One Burned.”
The Hunts, who serve as the joint prose writers-in-residence for Week Seven, will discuss the stories of Helga Estby and John Muir at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Hunt and Lawrence Hunt have become experts on these two travel narratives through their own writing careers. Hunt is the author of Restless Fires: John Muir’s Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf in 1867-68, and Lawrence Hunt is the author of Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America.
Lawrence Hunt said that their Brown Bag will focus on the idea of adventure and how it differed for men and women at the turn of the century, which is something that Estby and Muir’s narratives illuminate.
“There’s so much depth to both of these stories,” Hunt said. “Basically, we’ll just introduce them to these two powerful stories, and how they shaped one man and one woman’s life.”
Lawrence Hunt said that she and Hunt hope to divide their time equally so they can discuss both Estby and Muir.
Hunt will discuss John Muir, a naturalist and advocate for wilderness preservation. Hunt’s research focuses on Muir’s journey from Indiana to Florida, which Muir wrote about in his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.
Lawrence Hunt said that Muir’s journey helped establish the “formation of a whole new environmental ethic.” She said that this new ethic changed the way that people thought about travel, because it made them realize how interconnected the environment is.
“Muir’s famous quote is that everything is stitched together,” Lawrence Hunt said.
This mindset is what helped shape the founding of the United States’ national parks, Lawrence Hunt said.
Lawrence Hunt said
Estby’s story is fascinating because it was so unconventional for the time period.
Estby and her daughter, Clara, set out on a journey across the United States on a wager to save her family’s farm. The two went unescorted, which was considered out of the question at the time. Lawrence Hunt said she hopes people will understand the bravery it took for Estby to do what she did.
“I would want them to take away a respect for the courage of women who choose to become actors in the destiny of their lives,” Lawrence Hunt said. “Culture told her that she could not do this. And she had a commitment and determination that was huge to try and save her family farm. But she had to go against the culture, because women are told not to do that.”
Lawrence Hunt thinks that Estby’s story is important for all to hear, because it ultimately comes down to knowing and acting on one’s convictions.
“We need to hear what’s important to us — and not just what culture says,” Lawrence Hunt said. “We need to act with courage on our convictions.”