Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860

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In this book, which has important implications for our vision of the female past, Suzanne Lebsock examines the question, Did the position of women in America deteriorate or improve in the first half of the nineteenth century?
Focusing on Petersburg, Virginia, Professor Lebsock is able to demonstrate and explain how the status of women could change for the better in an antifeminist environment. She weaves the experiences of individual women together with general social trends, to...

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Overview

In this book, which has important implications for our vision of the female past, Suzanne Lebsock examines the question, Did the position of women in America deteriorate or improve in the first half of the nineteenth century?
Focusing on Petersburg, Virginia, Professor Lebsock is able to demonstrate and explain how the status of women could change for the better in an antifeminist environment. She weaves the experiences of individual women together with general social trends, to show, for example, how women's lives were changing in response to the economy and the institutions of property ownership and slavery.
By looking at what the Petersburg women did and thought and comparing their behavior with that of men, Lebsock discovers that they placed high value on economic security, on the personal, on the religious, and on the interests of other women. In a society committed to materialism, male dominance, and the maintenance of slavery, their influence was subversive. They operated from an alternative value system, indeed a distinct female culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Beth Norton
“Suzanne Lebsock's careful and precisely crafted study is a major contribution to American women's history. Her comprehensive analysis of one community during a key transitional period sheds new light on such important subjects as women's legal status, their work lives inside and outside the home, and the differing experience of black and white women. Her intelligence and hard work show on every page.”
Anne Firor Scott
“This is one of those rare books which breaks new ground. Southern urban women, black and white, in the antebellum years were different from their plantation counterparts, but Suzanne Lebsock is the first historian to find a way to examine their life experience in illuminating detail.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393952643
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/17/1985
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Lebsock is a recipient of a MacArthur fellowship and professor of history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her work winning The Free Women of Petersburg received the Bancroft Prize. She lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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