Domesticating Palestine: Elizabeth Champney’s Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land

Molly K. Robey, Illinois Wesleyan University
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Fall 2016), 365-394

This article examines the 1892 novel Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land, showing how it presents a model of cross-cultural encounter and women’s international activism, which the article terms “global domesticity.” Written by the largely forgotten author Elizabeth W. Champney, Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land is the final volume of a popular series of fictional travelogues that trace a number of Vassar girls’ travels through Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Conceptualizing the world as their household, the Vassar “girls” become “women” as they gain a sense of the United States’ place in the world and learn to embrace their roles as global social housekeepers. In this sense, the Vassar girls extend the boundaries of “Manifest Domesticity” beyond the home and nation, immersing themselves in foreign cultures and geographies and assimilating the foreign into an American world order. In Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land, Palestine serves as a site for rewriting the foundational mythology of the United States and for assimilating Jews and Judaism into the nation. By exporting American domesticity to the Near East, the Vassar girls lay claim to Palestine as part of an extended American household. Ultimately, Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land promotes the college girl not only as a new model of American womanhood but also as a new paradigm for an emerging American globalism.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]