By Susan Coultrap-McQuin
Coultrap-McQuin investigates the explanations for women's unheard of literary professionalism within the 19th century, highlighting the reports of E.D.E.N. Southworth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gail Hamilton, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward. She examines the cultural milieu of girls writers, the beliefs and practices of the literary industry, and the features of women's literary actions that introduced them good fortune.
Originally released in 1990.
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Extra info for Doing Literary Business: American Women Writers in the Nineteenth Century (Gender and American Culture)
In other words, while there is ample evidence that women themselves did not wholly conform to prescriptions of True Womanhood, nevertheless, those prescriptions exerted a strong influence on what was seen, understood, and said about women's lives. True Womanhood was the ideal against which most women's activities, including their literary ones, were judged. Being woman was the primary fact and being womanly the major glory, according to proponents of True Womanhood. A woman of her time, Ellen Olney Kirk, called it "the essential need of being womanly" against which other characteristics and motives faded.
As Mary Abigail Dodge (Gail Hamilton) wrote, "They make a great mistake, who think a strong, brave, self-poised woman is unwomanly. "19 Women themselves varied in their attitudes toward their society's prescriptions for womanhood, but, whatever their view, the values they were socialized to accept did not make them wholly distinct from their male counterparts. With men they were expected to share Victorian beliefs in, for example, moral purity, self-improvement, hard work, genteel behavior, and, in some cases, self-reliance.
Though they could be overlooked and undervalued, they still pushed on. Again, an ambiguous intellectual context may explain the paradox. In the nineteenth century, the attributes of woman and of writer were not conceived in wholly dichotomous ways; rather, they had some remarkable affinities. By concentrating on certain aspects of authorship, such as genteel amateurism or its moral goals and noncommercial aims, women could feel they did not compromise their womanhood by being writers, even if their critics said they did.