Dreaming of East explores the enduring fascination that the Middle East has exerted on women of the West, both because of its exotic trappings and because of the freedom it seemed to offer. When Lady Mary Wortley Montagu visited baths in Turkey in 1717, the first European woman on record to have ever done so, she was so tightly corseted that the women bathing there were convinced that her husband had locked her into some kind of devious machine.Montagu, stiff in her whalebone undergarments, envied not only the free and luxurious nudity of the bathers but was drawn to the apparent liberty of other aspects of their lives. She coveted this freedom and spent the rest of her life pursuing her own independence. Montagu's account of her journey, along with sporadic reports by other travellers, mostly male, slowly brought the area now known as the Middle East, into the consciousness of Western women. By the early 1800s the taste for things Oriental had firmly gripped Europe. The Western woman who travelled to the Middle East found much more than the new sensations she sought. She discovered that her attitudes toward both others and to herself were challenged and transformed.Accustomed to deferring to men, she was suddenly free to make her own choices and to form her own opinions. Moreover, her decisions and ideas were respected by - of all people - men. For a woman all too used to her inferior status at home, this venture into the land of near-sexlessness and freedom was exhillirating. When she eventually returned to her own society and found herself yet again relegated to second place, she would never again be content there.