In 1911 Miss Olive Oliver, a wealthy 32 year old woman from Melbourne, embarked on a round-the-world tour of the United States of America, Britain and Europe. Olive travelled with her father, William Oliver, her brother, William Donald ('Don'), and her friend, Gretta Nicolls. Throughout the trip, Olive kept a travel diary and collected brochures, postcards, menus, concert programs and maps from the places she visited. Museum Victoria has acquired these items as well as Olive's large wooden sea chest, and together these make up the Olive Oliver collection.
Olive's tour began when she left Melbourne on 9 March 1911 on a train to Sydney from where, two days later, she set sail for Vancouver, Canada on the S.S. Makura. With only one stop at Fiji on 20 March 1911 and another at Honolulu on 26 March 1911, the three week voyage was largely spent on board the ship. Olive passed the time playing quoits and shovel board on deck, listening to concerts in the saloon, and attending a fancy dress ball.
Olive arrived in Vancouver on 3 April 1911 and after a few days travelled on to Seattle, USA arriving on 6 April 1911. From there, the itinerary for the USA encompassed San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Del Monte, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Grand Canyon, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Boston, New York and Washington. Olive enjoyed many popular activities of the visiting tourist - she watched sunrise over Mirror Lake at Yosemite National Park, motored to the old Spanish missions near Santa Barbara, lunched on a rock overhanging the Grand Canyon, crossed beneath the Niagara Falls aboard the 'Maid of the Mist', and visited art galleries in New York.
While travelling was not always easy - it was 'very hot and disagreeable' on the train through the Kansas desert to Chicago - Olive had time for many leisure pursuits. In the cities she often 'did the shops', had her hair done, enjoyed afternoon tea at luxurious hotels, and went to the theatre. Commonly upon arriving at a city, Olive and her travel companions would also go for a motor tour of the surrounding country side. Olive, a botany enthusiast, would regularly comment on the local plants: the 'beautiful rich brown bark' of the enormous trees near Wawona, the 'wild thyme in profusion' outside of Del Monte, and the 'gay gardens' of Santa Barbara.
The early 20th century was a time when the world was changing for women, especially middle and upper class women, as they were granted new economic and legal rights, and presented with unheralded opportunities for travel, recreation and work, and America's cities and travel destinations allowed Olive to explore these changes. She collected postcards that depicted women at work in various divisions of a large insurance company in New York, and travel brochures that featured images of the independent or 'New Woman' traveller.
If anyone has any further information about Olive Oliver, please contact the Discovery Centre at Museum Victoria.