From the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean: Three Governor’s Wives in Russian America


  • Susanna Rabow-Edling Uppsala University



While some work has recently been done on native women in Russian America, very little has been written about Russian women and even less about the European non-Russian women who went to Russia’s North American colonies in Alaska—the easternmost outpost of the Russian empire in Alaska—from the western periphery of the empire. This paper is about three such women, Elisabeth von Wrangell, Margaretha Etholén and Anna Furuhjelm, and their experiences as governors’ wives in Russian America between 1829 and 1864. As the wives of governors, these women had a semi-official role as representatives of the Russian empire, which meant that they were expected to contribute to its civilizing mission in the colonies.

The paper aims to understand the experiences of these women as governors’ wives in the light of prescriptive notions of true womanhood and of the role of women in the civilizing mission. What was it like to be a young woman in the most remote part of the Russian empire and how can these experiences be related to the cult of domesticity and the new ideal of womanhood that took form in the nineteenth century? What was expected of them as representatives of the Russian empire and how did they themselves perceive this role?

Author Biography

Susanna Rabow-Edling, Uppsala University