Before They Could Vote: American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819-1919

Overview

The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition—some well known, some forgotten over generations—who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections—from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches—span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions ...

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Before They Could Vote: American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819-1919

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Overview

The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition—some well known, some forgotten over generations—who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections—from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches—span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions of prominence as writers, activists, and artists; some sought education or wrote to support themselves and their families; some transgressed social norms in search of new possibilities. Each woman’s story is strikingly individual, yet the brief narratives in this anthology collectively chart bold new visions of women’s agency.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Patricia Moore
Anyone interested in the history of women in America should have this collection on a handy shelf. Smith and Watson have chosen 24 selections within the time frame they set as starting at the end of the early republic and continuing to the passage of the amendment allowing women to vote. Their purpose is to collect "heterogeneous narratives of activism and adventuring" (p.19) in order to awaken a reader's awareness that the history of women in the 19th century is not limited to the suffragette movement and Victorian domesticity. Some of the women whose autobiographical writings are included here are well known: Mary Jemison, Fanny Kemble, Sojourner Truth and Margaret Fuller have caught our attention before. But not Rose Butler, who was convicted of arson in 1819 and executed. How well do we know the life of the African American religious activist Jarena Lee, or that of early California settler Eulalia Perez? Some of the autobiographical accounts of racial prejudice are anonymous, having appeared in The Independent, a periodical. Taken as single chapters or as an entire work, this book would be an invaluable addition to any course on 19th-century America or on women's studies.
From the Publisher
 "This indispensable collection is . . . important for its range of topics-social uplift, geography, education, lynching, sanctification, Indian removal, deafness, and abolition, among others."—Dale M. Bauer, coeditor, The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing

“This rich new anthology sets in motion an inter-textual conversation of remarkable vitality that will change the ways we understand gender, class, ethnicity, culture, and nation in nineteenth-century America.”—Susanna Egan, author of Mirror-Talk

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299220549
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/2006
  • Series: Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
  • Pages: 458
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sidonie Smith is Martha Guernsey Colby Collegiate Professor of English and Women's Studies and chair of the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Julia Watson is associate professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University. Their several previous books include Reading Autobiography and Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : living in public 3
1 An authentic statement of the case and conduct of Rose Butler, who was tried, convicted, and executed for the crime of arson 23
2 A narrative of the life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (as told to James E. Seaver) 37
3 The life and religious experience of Jarena Lee 124
4 Selections from journal of a residence on a Georgian plantation in 1838-1839 147
5 Transcription of speech given at the Akron Women's Rights Convention, from the Anti-Slavery Bugle 177
6 Selections from "youth," from Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli 180
7 "Testimony" given in Canada 202
8 "A brief narrative of the life of Mrs. Adele M. Jewel" 205
9 Selections from her journals 219
10 "The Yakima affair," from Life among the Piutes : their wrongs and claims 232
11 "An old woman and her recollections" (as recorded by Thomas Savage) 243
12 "Beginning to work," from A New England girlhood 254
13 "Looking back on girlhood" 270
14 "The club movement among colored women of America" 279
15 Sketches from The Atlantic Monthly 298
Impressions of an Indian "childhood" 300
"The school days of an Indian girl" 315
"An Indian teacher among Indians" 328
"Why I am a pagan" 336
16 "Nurslings of the sky," from The land of little rain 340
17 "Mary MacLane meets the vampire on the isle of treacherous delights" 347
18 "The promised land," from The promised land 356
19 Lives in The Independent and the question of race 375
"The race problem - an autobiography" 376
"Observations of the southern race feeling" 382
"More slavery at the South" 390
20 "How I made my first big flight abroad : my flight across the English Channel" 398
21 Autobiographical essays 405
"Leaves from the mental portfolio of an Eurasian" 406
"Sui Sin Far, the half Chinese writer, tells of her career" 419
22 Selections from Madeleine : an autobiography 427
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