Fanny Fern's (Sara Payson Willis') "Ruth Hall"

Read Ruth Hall, the autobiographical novel by one of the most famous authors of the era, Fanny Fern, the pseudonym of Sara Payson Willis. Willis' novel, as with much of her writing, both embraces and critiques domestic ideology. She defends her autobiographical heroine's foray into the public world of publishing in terms of her role as a mother, while simultaneously revealing, with caustic wit and satire, the hypocrisy of those who object to women taking a more active role in financially providing for themselves and their families. As such, her novel does not fit squarely within the category of domestic sentimental fiction but rather delineates some of the populist ideas behind such fiction as well as their limits.