Beyond Domesticity: U.S. Women Writers, 1770-1915


Introduction l True Womanhood l New Women l Growing Up Female l Political Women l Suffrage l Abolition l Women and War l Work Outside the Home l Cookery and Fancy-Work l Work Inside the Home l Mothering l Marriage l Marriage and Divorce l Regionalism l Travel l Bestsellers l Highlights l English 437: Students Research Rare Books





This literary movement, especially popular between the Civil War and the early 1900s, comprises fiction and poetry representing a specific region of the country along with the customs, dialect, and other characteristics that help to define that region. Frequently published in major literary journals, regionalist works often fed nostalgia for an allegedly simpler, rural national past. Typically, regions were defined as other than such major centers of economic and cultural power as Boston and New York City. Many of the most widely known regionalist writers were women. As literary critic Eric Sundquist has observed, “...those in power (say, white urban males) have been more often judged ‘realists,’ while those removed from the seats of power (say, Midwesterners, blacks, immigrants, or women) have been categorized as regionalists.” This section showcases some of the major works of regionalism, many of them first editions. 

“these straggling and cloudy crayon-sketches of life and manners in the remoter parts of Michigan...”

Caroline Kirkland [“Mrs. Mary Clavers, an Actual Settler”], 1801-1864.

A New Home – Who’ll Follow? Or, Glimpses of Western Life.
New York: C.S. Francis and Boston: J.H. Francis, 1839.
a new home - who'll follow? or, glimpses of western life
This first book by Kirkland depicts her family’s move westward, first to Detroit and then to a small frontier village where her husband had purchased 800 acres of land. Though the family failed to profit there and eventually returned to New York City, the experiment provided Kirkland with the subject of her popular account of settlement life. A New Home was praised by critics including Edgar Allan Poe.

“Our mysterious travel in this lower world”

Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896.

Palmetto Leaves.   
Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1873.
 palmetto leavespalmetto leaves
Stowe first visited Florida in 1867 and subsequently spent the next seventeen winters there, living along the St. John’s River. She touted the area’s beauty in articles and other works including this volume, in which she describes “the great charm” of life in the South as “its outdoorness. To be able to spend your winter out of be able to sit with windows open; to hear birds daily; to eat fruit from trees, and pick flowers from hedges, all winter long....”

“A quaint old place which has seen better days”

Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909.

Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1877.

Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the turn of the last century’s most prominent regionalists. Her works were set primarily on the coast of Maine. Deephaven was Jewett’s first book, a collection of related sketches about a seaside village, "a quaint old place which has seen better days" that is full of “out-of-door life and country people”

Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909.

Country By-Ways.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1881.
With added author's signature.
county by-ways
In the chapter entitled “Autumn Holiday,” Jewett writes:
“I am very fond of walking between the roads. One grows so familiar with the highways themselves. But once leap the fence and there are a hundred roads that you can take, each with its own scenery and entertainment. Every walk of this kind proves itself a tour of exploration and discovery....I find new ways to go, new sights to see, new friends among the things that grow, and jewett signaturenew treasures and pleasures every summer; and later, when the frosts have come and the swamps have frozen, I can go everywhere I like all over my world.”

“Whatever treasures were lost to her, woodlands and summer-time, remember! Bring your gifts and graces and tell your secrets to this lonely country child!”

Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909.

A White Heron And Other Stories.
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1887.
a white heron and other stories
The title story, “The White Heron,” is one of Jewett’s most widely anthologized regionalist tales. The story’s “little woods-girl” protagonist must choose between protecting a beautiful bird or betraying its whereabouts and thereby pleasing a charming hunter from the city.

Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909.

The Country of the Pointed Firs.
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1897.
country of the pointed firs
Widely considered Jewett’s best single book, The Country of the Pointed Firs is set in the fictional town of Dunnett’s Landing on the coast of Maine where Jewett herself grew up.

“the master of a style so strikingly masculine. . . in these mountain tales”

Charles Egbert Craddock [Mary N. Murfree], 1850-1922.

The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1885.
prophet of the great smoky mountainsand
Down the Ravine.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1895.
down the ravine
Murfree, whose great-grandfather lent his name to the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, wrote her stories and novels about the Appalachian mountains under her male pen-name for several years before revealing to her editor that she was a woman. Published the same year, both of these Craddock novels evoke Appalachia; Down the Ravine was an illustrated story intended “for Young People.”

Mary E. Wilkins [Freeman], 1852-1930.

A New England Nun and Other Stories.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891.
new england nun and other stories
Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth Century American Literature.
“A Corner in Mary Wilkins’s Home.”

Francis Whiting Halsey, 1851-1919.

Women Authors of Our Day in Their Homes: Personal Description and Interviews.
New York: J. Pott & Co., 1901.
corner in mary wilkin's home
One of the most highly-regarded New England regionalists, Mary Wilkins Freeman was praised for providing through her stories and novels “an unparalled record of New England life.” A Ladies’ Home Journal sketch of Wilkins that ran the year after this volume appeared suggests that this, her second volume of stories, was currently “enjoying an even wider popularity than its predecessor,” A Humble Romance.

Kate Chopin, 1850-1904.

Bayou Folk.
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894.
Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth Century American Literature.
bayou folk
The first of two short story collections about the Louisiana Bayou by the author of The Awakening (1899). During the 1890s, Chopin wrote roughly a hundred short stories in addition to her two novels, most set in Louisiana. Her short stories were well-received and published in some of the nation’s most prestigious magazines.

“She may build a new race of new men.”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860-1935.

The Crux.
New York: Charlton Company, 1911.
Set in Colorado, Gilman’s early contribution to the genre of the Western not only advocates that women, too, “go West,” forerunneras Horace Greely advised the “young man” to do. The novel is also a polemic against both the spread of venereal disease to unsuspecting women and the collusion between doctors and infected men to keep wives in the dark.

Willa Sibert Cather, 1873-1947.

O Pioneers!
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913.
o pioneers!
Considered by many to be Cather’s masterpiece, O Pioneers! is set in the frontier region o pioneers!where Cather herself grew up. Cather dedicated the book to her mentor, the regionalist writer Sarah Orne Jewett. The color frontispiece on display depicts the novel’s strong heroine, Alexandra Bergson. The novel features Alexandra and other members of her family, immigrants from Sweden whose struggles to succeed and find happiness on the Nebraskan prairie are jeopardized – and for Alexandra’s youngest brother Emil, fatally thwarted – by romantic entanglements.

Mary Hallock Foote, 1847-1938.

The Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp.
Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., c1911.
the led-horse claim
In a time when the landscape of the American West was the main character in many novels, Mary Hallock Foote focused on the people populating that picturesque landscape. Drawing on her personal experiences in mining camps of Leadville, Colorado, she wrote realistically about the miners and engineers who made these camps functional. In this novel—her first—a dispute over territorial rights is the backdrop against which the story of two star-crossed lovers unfolds. Foote was also a well-known illustrator and illustrated this work. This illustration depicts both the landscape of the American West that was so famous, and also the people that Foote so realistically wrote.

Label: Cecilia Claytor.



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