I’m Diana Parsell, and I began this website to chronicle my research and writing of a book on Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore.
Eliza Scidmore entered my life a decade ago, though I didn’t yet know it. While living in Jakarta, I bought the reprint of an 1897 travel narrative, Java, the Garden of the East. I never got around to reading it so I shipped it home with our other things when we left. One day I came across it again on a shelf in my home office. As I read bits of it I grew nostalgic about places in Indonesia I had visited. Who, I wondered, was this author “E. R. Scidmore”? And what took him to far-off Java a century ago?
I did a quick online search. What I discovered astonished me: Not only was the author a woman, but she led a remarkable life, despite the gender constraints of the 19th century.
Having access to the amazing Library of Congress is a perk of living in the Washington, D.C., area. I headed there to see what more I could find out. My search turned up original copies of Eliza Scidmore’s seven books and hundreds of articles she published. But there was no biography. Since then I’ve been piecing together her story for a book. My working title: A Great Blooming.
Like Eliza Scidmore, I was born in the Midwest but have lived mostly in Washington. She came here from Wisconsin as a child; I moved here from southeastern Ohio after college. Other parallels: journalism and ties to National Geographic. Eliza was a writer, editor and photographer for the magazine. I started my editorial career there as a layout assistant to the art director, until I left to get an M.A. in journalism at the University of Missouri. Over the years I’ve been a contract writer for several divisions of National Geographic and was lead writer for the last three updates of its Traveler’s Guide to Washington, D.C.
My career has been a mix of journalism, science writing, public information and editorial project management. I’ve worked for The Washington Post, National Institutes of Health, American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, among others. From 1999 to 2009 I traveled regularly to Southeast Asia as a writer and editorial consultant for international-development research centers.
Samples of my published work are available at www.dianaparsell.com