Anna Dickinson's career as an orator began in her teenage years, when she gave her first impassioned speech on women's rights. By the age of twenty-one, she was spending at least six months per year on the road, delivering lectures on abolitionism, politics, and public affairs, and establishing herself as one of the nation's first celebrities. In March 1875, Dickinson departed from Washington, D.C., for an extended tour of the South, curious to see how far the region had progressed in the decade after Appomattox.
In A Tour of Reconstruction, editor J. Matthew Gallman compiles Dickinson's commentary and observations to provide an honest depiction of the postwar South from the perspective of an outspoken radical abolitionist. She documents the continuing effects of the Civil War on the places she visited, and true to her inquisitive spirit, questions the societal developments she witnessed, seeking out black and white southerners to discuss issues of the day. Like many northern observers, she focuses on documenting race relations and the state of the southern economy, but she also details the public's reactions to her appearances, providing some of her most telling commentary. A Tour of Reconstruction, punctuated with a wealth of historical observations and entertaining anecdotes, is the story of one woman's experiences in the postbellum South.