Interpretations of women in the antebellum period have long dwelt upon the notion of public versus private gender spheres. As part of the ongoing reevaluation of the prehistory of the women's movement, Carolyn Lawes challenges this paradigm and the primacy of class motivation. She studies the women of antebellum Worcester, Massachusetts, discovering that whatever their economic background, women there publicly worked to remake and improve their community in their own image. Lawes analyzes the organized social activism of the mostly middle-class, urban, white women of Worcester and finds that they were at the center of community life and leadership. Drawing on rich local history collections, Lawes weaves together information from city and state documents, court cases, medical records, church collections, newspapers, and diaries and letters to create a portrait of a group of women for whom constant personal and social change was the norm. Throughout Women and Reform in a New England Community, conventional women make seemingly unconventional choices. A wealthy Worcester matron helped spark a women-led rebellion against ministerial authority in the town's orthodox Calvinist church. Similarly, a close look at the town's sewing circles reveals that they were vehicles for political exchange as well as social gatherings that included men but intentionally restricted them to a subordinate role. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the women of Worcester had taken up explicitly political and social causes, such as an orphan asylum they founded, funded, and directed. Lawes argues that economic and personal instability rather than a desire for social control motivated women, even relatively privileged ones, into social activism. She concludes that the local activism of the women of Worcester stimulated, and was stimulated by, their interest in the first two national women's rights conventions, held in Worcester in 1850 and 1851. Far from being marginalized from the vital economic, social, and political issues of their day, the women of this antebellum New England community insisted upon being active and ongoing participants in the debates and decisions of their society and nation.
Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts
Author: Johann N NEEM
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville published his observations in Democracy in America, Americans have recognized the distinctiveness of their voluntary tradition. In a work of political, legal, social, and intellectual history, Neem traces the origins of this venerable tradition to the vexed beginnings of American democracy in Massachusetts.
Women and the Pastoral Relationship in Nineteenth-Century American Culture
Author: Karin E. Gedge
Publisher: Oxford University Press
The common view of the nineteenth-century pastoral relationship--found in both contemporary popular accounts and 20th-century scholarship--was that women and clergymen formed a natural alliance and enjoyed a particular influence over each other. In Without Benefit of Clergy, Karin Gedge tests this thesis by examining the pastoral relationship from the perspective of the minister, the female parishioner, and the larger culture. The question that troubled religious women seeking counsel, says Gedge, was: would their minister respect them, help them, honor them? Surprisingly, she finds, the answer was frequently negative. Gedge supports her conclusion with evidence from a wide range of previously untapped primary sources including pastoral manuals, seminary students' and pastors' journals, women's diaries and letters, pamphlets, sentimental and sensational novels, and The Scarlet Letter.
Antislavery Marriages in Nineteenth-century America
Author: Chris Dixon
Publisher: Univ of Massachusetts Press
For three turbulent decades before the outbreak of the Civil War, radical abolitionists labored to reform American society. Some carried the struggle beyond the public crusade against slavery, extending it into the private realm of family relations. Appalled by the horrors inflicted on black families in the Southern slave states, and concerned about the precise meaning of freedom in the North, they sought to make their own marriages into models of affection and equality. Chris Dixon creates a vivid portrait of these antislavery families, focusing on eight prominent couples. He examines the details of their domestic lives and reveals the relationship between their abolitionist and domestic ideologies, showing how they both confronted and conformed to the emergent bourgeois culture of ninteenth-century America. While radical abolitionists held men accountable for many of the corruptions that they felt were poisoning American life, they did not believe men were beyond redemption. As Dixon shows, the abolitionists set out to redefine masculinity by renouncing power and oppression in favor of intimacy and cooperation. Perfecting the Family examines the ways in which these reformers tried - with mixed success - to make those affectionate qualities the basis for a new, companionate type of marriage, in which women and men would go forward as equal partners.
British social reformers Emma Cons (1838–1911) and Lucy Cavendish (1841–1924) broke new ground in their efforts to better the lot of the working poor in London: they hoped to transform these people’s lives through great art, music, high culture, and elite knowledge. Although they did not recognize it as such, their work was in many ways an affirmation and display of citizenship. This book uses Cons’s and Cavendish’s partnership and work as an illuminating point of departure for exploring the larger topic of women’s philanthropic campaigns in late Victorian and Edwardian society. Andrea Geddes Poole demonstrates that, beginning in the late 1860s, a shift was occurring from an emphasis on charity as a private, personal act of women’s virtuous duty to public philanthropy as evidence of citizenly, civic participation. She shows that, through philanthropic works, women were able to construct a separate public sphere through which they could speak directly to each other about how to affect matters of significant public policy – decades before women were finally granted the right to vote.
The Rise and Fall of Radical Westminster, 1780-1890 explores a critical chapter in the story of Britain's transition to democracy. Utilising the remarkably rich documentation generated by Westminster elections, Baer reveals how the most radical political space in the age of oligarchy became the most conservative and tranquil in an age of democracy.
Nursing Before Nightingale is a study of the transformation of nursing in England from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the emergence of the Nightingale nurse as the standard model in the 1890s. From the nineteenth century on historians have considered Florence Nightingale, with her training school established at St. Thomas's Hospital in 1860, the founder of modern nursing. This book investigates two major earlier reforms in nursing: a doctor-driven reform which came to be called the 'ward system,' and the reforms of the Anglican Sisters, known as the 'central system' of nursing. Rather than being the beginning of nursing reform, Nightingale nursing was the culmination of these two earlier reforms. Recent historians of nursing have ascribed the nineteenth century makeover of nursing to two causes: medicalization by hospital doctors who found the old independent nurse practitioners a threat, and the inculcation of middle class values by philanthropists. By contrast this volume demonstrates that the real cause of nursing reform was the development of the new scientific medicine which emphasized supportive therapeutics and, as a result, became heavily dependent on skilled nursing for successful implementation of these treatments. The pre-industrial work ethic of the old hospital nurses could not meet the requirements of the new medicine. Recruitment and retention of working-class persons was also extremely difficult because nursing in the early nineteenth century formed the lowest rung of the occupation of domestic service and was a job of last resort. It was still more difficult to recruit educated women or 'ladies.' There were intricate interactions between the requirements of clinical nursing under hospital medicine's new regime on the one hand, and on the other, the contemporary ideal of a lady, class structure, economic realities, the reformation of manners, and the detrimental impact of violent denominational controversies in a very religious society. This book, therefore, will be of great value to those studying the history of medicine, labour, religion, gender studies and the rise of a respectable society in the nineteenth century.