When nature exudes in a swamp in Louisiana it is rich, tropical, juicy, dark, verminy, repellant and lovely all in one," wrote Catharine Cole in 1889. "It is like a coffin crowned with flowers; a death trap baited with roses."
Writing under the pseudonym Catharine Cole, Martha R. Field (1855-1898) became the first full-time newswoman for the New Orleans Daily Picayune in 1881. For more than a decade she was the woman's page editor and wrote a Sunday column, "Catharine Cole's Letter," that established her as one of the most popular writers in the South.
Cole wrote fiction, essays, editorials on women's issues, and travel pieces. But her accounts of journeys through Louisiana's rural parishes by rail, steamboat, carriage, buggy, and on foot brought her writing to the state's working men and women as well as its plantation aristocracy. Louisiana Voyages: The Travel Writings of Catharine Cole gathers these travel writings for the first time.
Touring most of Louisiana's parishes, taking in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette, Morgan City, and Grand Isle, Cole revealed in her journalism much about an exotic, unspoiled Louisiana and the Gilded Age South as a whole. A punishing 1,800-mile buggy trip through forests, swamps, bayous, and along the Gulf Coast made her a celebrity writer who, according to her contemporaries, "knew more about Louisiana than any other person alive."
Joan B. McLaughlin is a retired associate professor of English at Clemson University. Her work has appeared in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Concerning Poetry, Arizona Quarterly, South Carolina Review, and other periodicals. Jack McLaughlin is a retired professor of English and humanities at Clemson University. He is the author of Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder and To His Excellency Thomas Jefferson: Letters to a President.
Learn more about Catharine Cole at catharinecole.com/.