Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century America

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In the decades spanning the nineteenth century, thousands of women entered the literary marketplace. Twelve of the century's most successful women writers provide the focus for Mary Kelley's landmark study: Maria Cummins, Caroline Howard Gilman, Caroline Lee Hentz, Mary Jane Holmes, Maria McIntosh, Sara Parton, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Virginia Terhune, Susan Warner, and Augusta Evans Wilson. These women shared more than commercial success. Collectively they ...

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Overview

In the decades spanning the nineteenth century, thousands of women entered the literary marketplace. Twelve of the century's most successful women writers provide the focus for Mary Kelley's landmark study: Maria Cummins, Caroline Howard Gilman, Caroline Lee Hentz, Mary Jane Holmes, Maria McIntosh, Sara Parton, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Virginia Terhune, Susan Warner, and Augusta Evans Wilson. These women shared more than commercial success. Collectively they created fictions that Kelley terms "literary domesticity," books that both embraced and called into question the complicated expectations shaping the lives of so many nineteenth-century women. Matured in a culture of domesticity and dismissed by a male writing establishment, they struggled to reconcile public recognition with the traditional roles of wife and mother.

Drawing on the 200 volumes of published prose and on the letters, diaries, and journals of these writers, Kelley explores the tensions that accompanied their unprecedented literary success. In a new preface, she discusses the explosion in the scholarship on writing women since the original 1984 publication of Private Woman, Public Stage and reflects on the book's ongoing relevance.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In Kelley's deft hands, the writers' contributions to subsequent generations seem even more profound. Those who enter the world of Southworth, Stowe, and the other literary domestics will be grateful that these women novelists did not after all remain (to paraphrase one of them) in the obscurity of their homes. (Women's Review of Books)

An illuminating and sensitive analysis of those complex women and their place in American culture. (Journal of American History)

Kelley offers a richly detailed account plentiful with new findings. (American Historical Review)

The beauty of Private Woman, Public Stage is its artful merging of U.S. history, women's history, and literature. (Choice)

From the Publisher

"Enriches our understanding of women's history and of American social and intellectual history. Kelley brilliantly integrates recent historical scholarship on a multitude of subjects."--The Women's Review of Books

"Fascinating....Provocative and challenging."--Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, The New York Times Book Review

"Kelley transforms our understanding of American women and of American literature in the nineteenth century....A major contribution."--Linda Kerber, University of Iowa

"A long overdue reassessment of the neglected and misunderstood 'literary domestics.'"--Journal of American History

"An ambitious, comprehensive, widely researched, and well-documented book on the phenomenon of the popular female fiction writer in mid-nineteenth-century America."--American Quarterly

"The most ambitious study of these writers to date."--American Historical Review

"A sensitive, insightful, well-researched book, and an important contribution to both women's studies and American literary history."--American Studies

"A stunning achievement....This book will immediately put Mary Kelley among the best historians of women in this country."--Carl N. Degler, Stanford University

"Beautifully written...exhibiting a wide frame of reference...[Her] book not only stimulates but also makes a complex subject both easy and delightful to assimilate."--Saturday Review

"The beauty of Private Woman, Public Stage is its artful merging of U.S. history, women's history, and literature. The book makes an important contribution to the continuing development of women's history."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854228
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Kelley is a Collegiate Professor of History, American Culture, and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. Previously, she was the Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor of History at Dartmouth College. Among her most recent books are The Portable Margaret Fuller and The Power of Her Sympathy: The Autobiography and Journal of Catharine Maria Sedgwick.

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