University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Traveling independently as a published author and a lady of stature, Abbie M. Brooks exceeded the boundaries placed around women in America’s Gilded Age. From 1872 through 1876, Brooks faithfully recorded her adventures as she traveled throughout Florida, Georgia and Cuba. The four years of nearly daily entries she wrote enable the reader to witness the emergence of Brooks nom d’ plume Silvia Sunshine as an opinionated and authoritative guide. The diary entries and travel notations were compiled into the Florida guidebook Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes, published in 1880. During the course of the diary Brooks attributed her own emergence as an independent, accomplished writer to her traveling in Florida. In doing so Brooks identified the Sunshine State as a land of escape, rehabilitation and opportunity. This annotated transcription of Brooks’ diary reveals how she orchestrated travel and capitalized on friendships to witness significant moments in the development of postbellum United States. The annotations serve to place people, events and locations in context. Abbie Brooks frequently kept company with legislators, judges, newspaper publishers, ministers, doctors and their families. She attended the 1872 Delegate Assembly in Atlanta, perused an international market in Key West, sailed to Cuba during the Ten Years War and celebrated the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia. Cities visited include Atlanta, Savannah, Jacksonville, Pensacola, St. Augustine, Cedar Keys, Clearwater, Terra Ceia, Punta Rassa and Key West. By the conclusion of the four-year diary Brooks presented Florida as an ideal land poised as the destination of sunshine and dreams.
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Vance, Dara R., "Rivers of Truth, Shores of Myth and the Land Between: The Dawning of Silvia Sunshine upon Florida’s Frontier, An Annotated Diary" (2012). USFSP Master's Theses (Graduate). 66.