Isabella Bird was one of the most famous and admired travel writers of the nineteenth century. The first woman to be elected to the Royal Geographical Society, she published eight volumes of travel writings which documented her lifetime of travels to every continent. Often ill as a child, at age eighteen she underwent partially successful spinal surgery to remove a tumor from her spine, yet continued to suffer from a series of ailments. Bird's doctor adviced travel as a cure, so in 1854 she was given one hundred pounds by her father and told she could travel until her money ran out. Leaving Liverpool in June, she travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia to visit cousins. Becoming restless, Bird undertook wider travels, covering nearly 6,000 miles, visiting Maine, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Quebec, New York, and Massachusetts. She detailed her travels in letters to her sister which went on to become the basis for her first book, The Englishwoman in America, published in 1856. This first trip overseas, and the resultant book, set Bird up for a highly successful career as a traveller and writer.