Unit 6: The Question of Women's Place in Society

6a. Describe the development of a Women's Rights Movement in the antebellum US and identify the major voices and platforms that emerged.
  1. Describe the development of a Women's Rights Movement in the antebellum US.
  2. Who were the major voices at this time?
  3. What platforms emerged in regards to women's rights at the time?

This era saw huge changes in the roles available to women and marked the First Wave of the Feminist Movement in the US. Traditional roles relegated women to the home, a domestic space wherein they were in charge of raising the children according to widely-held Christian values of the time. Depending on class position or marital status, some women were forced to work outside the home, but usually ended up in low-paying factory jobs and were looked at in a negative manner. Many women began to question these limitations, especially as they coalesced around women's suffrage. Some of the major voices at the time included white women, but also black women whose rights were almost always overlooked, even through this period: Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Wilson, Maria Weston Chapman, Paulina Wright Davis, Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, Alice Paul, Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Susan B. Anthony. The Seneca Falls Conference of 1848 marks one of the first important meetings where woman forged a plan of resistance and fought to gain the right to vote. Women also became activists in regards to slaves' rights and temperance. Revisit "Women and the Early Republic""The Seneca Falls Declaration", and "Women's Sphere" for much more reading on this topic of the Women's Rights Movement.


6b. Summarize the arguments of Fuller and Peabody in favor of women's rights and analyze them in terms of Transcendentalism.
  1. Summarize the arguments of Fuller and Peabody in favor of women's rights.
  2. How do the arguments of Fuller and Peabody relate to Transcendentalism?

Fuller argued in favor of women's rights through the lens of Transcendentalism. Without particular societal freedoms, women were unable to reach their full potential in terms of spiritual development and growth of the soul. She links the plight of women to the evils of slavery and engages in both feminist and anti-slavery arguments. Peabody was the first female publisher in Boston and worked to promote the works of women. She also founded the Kindergarten movement according to the philosophy that education must take place in consideration of the whole child: mind, body, and soul. Revisit "The Great Lawsuit" for further information on Fuller's position on women's rights, and see the biography of Peabody for more reading on her life and activism.


6c. Delineate how Stoddard's short story characterizes the relationships among sexuality, gender roles, and class during this time period.
  1. Delineate how Stoddard's short story characterizes the relationships among sexuality, gender roles, and class during this time period.
  2. What does Stoddard ultimately teach, or caution, women about marriage?
  3. What does the main character realize at the end of the short story?

Stoddard couches her intervention about women's rights and class in a short story that hinges on a lawsuit and marriage. One of the main characters, Margaret, ends up being a bargaining chip in a lawsuit without realizing it until the end of the short story. Her aunt facilitates the marriage to a rich, young lawyer who represents her interests in a land dispute. Knowing Margaret is set to inherit whatever her aunt has, Mr. Uxbridge will fight harder to win Aunt Eliza's lawsuit. At the end, Margaret realizes that she, in effect, has become her husband's property. See Stoddard's "Lemorne versus Huell" to review exactly what she argues in the story itself.


6d. Understand the accomplishments and challenges of women of color working toward women's and African Americans' rights during this time period.
  1. Understand the accomplishments and challenges of women of color working toward women's and African Americans' rights during this time period.
  2. Why did white women and African American women have trouble finding common ground in the feminist movement?
  3. While African American women certainly fought against the evils of slavery, what other social reform movements did they participate in during this time?

Women of color working for women's rights at the time often butted heads with white women working on the same cause. African American women saw women's rights and the rights of all African Americans as equally important causes, whereas some white women thought rights surrounding suffrage were most important. Women of color working for equal rights at the time include: Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Sojourner Truth, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin. These women worked hard for women's rights, the abolition of slavery, and prohibition of alcohol, among other social reforms, taking an intersectional approach unlike their white counterparts. Review Frances Harper and Ida B. Wells for more info on these women.


6e. Identify the genre traits of the domestic novel and reconcile how Warner uses those conventions to author one of the most outstanding examples of popular literature written by women at the time.
  1. Identify the genre traits of the domestic novel.
  2. How does Warner uses those conventions to author one of the most outstanding examples of popular literature written by women at the time?
  3. What does she argue in her most famous work, The Wide Wide World?

The domestic novel focuses on the domestic sphere and the inner workings of the home space. The main female character works to create a nurturing environment where she can raise children in comfort and instruct them in the values of Christianity. Family dynamics at play in these works usually encompass a comfortably middle class scenario and show a patriarchal model to readers. Warner's The Wide Wide World depicts a young woman who has a difficult childhood but them matures after being instructed in the ways of the domestic sphere. The story ends with her on the verge of adulthood and marriage, the ultimate ending for a novel of this type. See Warner's text to remind yourself of her argument about women and the domestic sphere.


6f. Analyze how Alcott's novel both challenges and reinforces conventions about women through her use of sentimental tropes.
  1. Analyze how Alcott's novel both challenges and reinforces conventions about women through her use of sentimental tropes.
  2. What is the significance of Mr. March being absent for most of the novel?
  3. How do the March sisters themselves challenge and reinforce conventions about women?

Alcott sets her novel within the confines of patriarchal society wherein Mr. and Mrs. March are raising four daughters to be proper, submissive, Christian women. However, interestingly, Mr. March is absent for the majority of the novel. He is serving as a doctor in the Civil War and leaves the bulk of the raising of his daughters to Mrs. March. While she does help the girls overcome many an obstacle, usually surrounding their desire to express great emotion, she also seems to allow for deviation from traditional gender roles. All of the girls who make it into adulthood marry for love and seem to find partnerships instead of just submissive roles in a domestic prison. For greater insight into Alcott's work, read the text and this critical essay.


Unit 6 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included

  • Women's Rights Movement (First Wave)
  • Women's Suffrage
  • Seneca Falls Conference
  • Race, Class, and Suffrage
  • African American Women and Suffrage
  • Suffragettes
  • Suffrage and Other Social Reforms (abolition, temperance, Native rights, etc.)
  • Domesticity
  • The Domestic Novel
  • Private vs. Public Domain
  • Women's Work vs. Men's Work
  • Gender Norms and Roles
  • Gender Stereotypes
  • Character Development
  • Patriarchy
Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 4:03 PM