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

Growing Up Female


flower fables


Growing up female in American was no picnic. Or so it would seem, based on the many sentimentalized stories that sought to prepare girl readers for tragedy, hardship, and self-sacrifice. And that’s just the literature intended for the white upper-class audience. Harriet Jacobs reveals that for young girls living in slavery, everyday life was far more difficult and the future far more bleak:
             
“I once saw two beautiful children playing together. One was a fair white child; the other was her slave, and also her sister. When I saw them embracing each other, and heard their joyous laughter, I turned sadly away from the lovely sight . I foresaw the inevitable blight that would fall on the little slave’s heart. I knew how soon her laughter would be changed to sighs. The fair child grew up to be a still fairer woman. From childhood to womanhood her pathway was blooming with flowers, and overarched by a sunny sky. Scarcely one day of her life had been clouded when the sun rose on her happy bridal morning.
 
How had those years dealt with her slave sister, the little playmate of her childhood?
She, also, was very beautiful; but the flowers and sunshine of love were not for her. She drank the cup of sin, and     shame, and misery, whereof her persecuted race are compelled to drink.”


Conduct Manual

Lydia Green Abell.

Woman in her Various Relations;Containing Practical Rules for American Females.
New York: J.M. Fairchild & Co., 1855. 
woman in her various relations containing practical rules for american femaleslydia green abell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Caroline Kirkland, 1801-1864.

The Evening Book: or, Fireside Talk on Morals and Manners, with Sketches of Western Life.
New York: Charles Scribner, 1852.
the evening book or fireside talk on morals and manners

 

 

 

 

 

 



Maria Jane McIntosh, 1803-1878.

Woman an Enigma; or, Life and Its Revealings.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1848.
Barnwell-Singleton Collection. Donated by Mr. and Mrs. David Phillips.
woman an enigma of life and its revealings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Maria Jane McIntosh, 1803-1878.

Ellen Leslie; or, the Reward of Self-Control.
Ellen Leslie; or, the Reward of Self Control.
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1856.
ellen leslie or the reward of self-control
Advice manuals like these targeted young female readers with instruction in etiquette, religion, and future household duties. From a very young age, girls were taught to serve others. As Mrs. Abell puts it, “Woman . . . is the center flower, the main-spring, the pendulum that keeps all the delicate machinery in regular motion. Exercising this power suitably, all the parts of household occupations are performed . . . and comfort for her family is provided, even at the expense of many an exhausted nerve, and an aching heart.” Note the handwritten inscription on Woman an Enigma, indicating that this book was a gift from a mother to her daughter.





Frances E. Willard, 1839-1898.

How To Win. A Book for Girls.
New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1886.
how to win a book for girls
Most famous as a leader of the international temperance movement, Willard was also a proponent of women’s suffrage and higher education. Thus, this book differs radically from the four conduct manuals also displayed here. It includes chapters on identifying your personal talent, finding work in journalism and reform, and learning to “hold your own” in marriage.



 

 

Leisure Time Amusements: “See, Jane, here is a little stick, with which you are to be struck while blindfolded.”

Henrietta Dumont.

The Lady’s Oracle: An Elegant Pastime for Social Parties and the Family Circle.
Philadelphia: H.C. Peck & Theo. Bliss, 1852.
Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton.
the lady's oracle, an elegant pastime for social parties and the family circle




 

 

 



 



Caroline Gilman, 1794-1888.

The Sibyl, or, New Oracles from the Poets.
New York: Putnam, 1849.
Barnwell-Singleton Collection. Donated by Mr. and Mrs. David Phillips.
the sibyl or new oracles from the poets

 

 

 

 

 




Eliza Leslie, 1787-1858

The American Girl’s Book; Occupation for Many Hours.
New York: R. Worthington, 1880.
the american gir's book; occupation for many hours
Many families owned books such as these, containing parlor games for children and young adults. Leslie’s popular collection, which remained in print well into the twentieth century, provides instructions for doll making and card games, jokes and riddles, and directions for group games like the one shown here. Oracles were intended for older readers. Each section begins with a question such as “How do you pass your time?” followed by a series of quotes drawn from popular verse that,when randomly selected and read aloud, told a player’s fortune. These sorts of books typically fuse entertainment with moral instruction. What do you suppose girls learned by playing “Two Blind Sisters”?


 


Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, 1844-1911.

Kitty Brown and Her Little School.
Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1852.
the party at brook runaway
This children’s book is from a 4-part series about the title character’sspiritual awakening and religious training. The writer published under the pseudonym H. kitty brown and her little schoolTrusta, avoiding direct acknowledgment for her many popular works. After Phelps’s death, however, her daughter took her name and became a famous novelist in her own right. Interestingly, the daughter’s works often focus on frustrated and forgotten female artists.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisa May Alcott, 1832-1888.

Flower Fables.
New York & Boston: H.M. Caldwell Co., 1909.
flower fables
This was Alcott’s first published work, at age 23. It contains seven tales, each teaching a specific moral virtue, which she wrote originally for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter, Ellen. This later edition was chosen in part for its elaborate cover design.





 




Susan Warner [pseudonym
Elizabeth Wetherell],1819-1885.

The Wide, Wide World.
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1892.
the wide wide world
Nineteenth-century ideas about growing up female in the U.S. were the wide wide worldsometimes rather morbid. This novel, the first American bestseller, traces the maturation of Ellen Montgomery through a series of losses and hardships, beginning with her mother’s death. Along the way Ellen grows attached to her neighbor John Humphreys, whose stern (and rather creepy) emotional and physical domination teach her submission and self-control.




 



“The Young Musician.” In The Ladies Companion.

New York: William W. Snowdon. Volume 17, May 1842.
the ladies companion

 

 

 

 

 

 



Sampler, 1886.

Made by Caroline Rutledge, Age 12, of Hampton
Plantation, Charleston County, SC.
sampler 1886
Collection of McKissick Museum, gift of William D. Workman Jr.
Young girls perfected and exhibited their needlepoint skills by completing samplers. This intricate sampler highlights twelve-year-old Caroline Rutledge’s handiwork as well as her knowledge of scripture. Religious instruction was an essential part of a girl’s domestic education throughout the nineteenth century. 

 

 



Dollhouse Furniture, ca. 1900-1915

Collection of McKissick Museum, gift of Maude Byrnes.
dollhouse furnituredollhouse furniture
As a young girl played with these intricate dollhouse furnishings, sheabsorbed society’s expectations for her adult life.Beauty was the ultimate female goal. It was not enough for a woman to be physically attractive; she also was expected to create beautiful goods. 






 

 

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