Learning Team A:
William (Clint) Perkins, Layla Nelson, Becci Hogan, Jose Sepulveda, Dale Blake 491/American literature to 1860
August 1, 2010
University of Phoenix
American Themes- Women’s Rights
The history of the rights of women and their roles in society allow Americans to understand the impact they had on the development of America. From the very earliest colonial days when a woman’s rights were basically unheard of— to the Civil War when women became involved in the abolitionist movement, women’s lives and roles changed. With the expansion of their roles in society, came more literary references to women. Either as authors themselves, such as Margaret Fuller, or women who became famous for their political struggles for women’s rights, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, their courageous battles have been recorded. Just as women’s rights have evolved through the history of America, they also have developed as a theme in literature.
Importance of “Women’s Rights” Theme in American Literature Addressing women’s rights in American literature is an important theme. Since the beginnings of literary discourse, women issues and their rights have been absent in literary works. As such, women’s voices have been silent because literary criticism because it has been dominated predominantly by males. Even though women have challenged male dominance and control in the literary world, they faced enormous criticism, disapproval and even exile, as was the case with Anne Hutchison. She was exile from her community during the Colonial Period because she openly expressed her belief that God could reveal himself to individuals without the assistance of the clergy (Rothbard, 1975). In fact, Hutchinson was warned by male theologians that women would suffer from damage to their brains if they engaged in deep theological thought. During the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams wrote and spoke passionately about the desire for men correct the inequalities between women. Adams insisted that wives ought to be freed from the absolute legal authority husbands held over their lives: “if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined foment a rebellion, and will not ourselves bound by any laws in which we have not voice for representation” (McQuade, 1991, p. 283) . It was later during the 19th century as women began to demand more changes that their messages for equal rights became more evident in American literature. Margaret Fuller, a pioneer of nineteenth century feminism, was one of the first women to gain national recognition through her scholarly literary efforts to promote equality between men and women. She started “Conversations,” which was a series of lectures and discussions for adult women on topics such as poetry, ethics, and Greek mythology. Fuller believed that women historically had been educated solely for the purpose of display and not to think (Lauter, 2005). In response, Fuller saw herself as the catalyst to change this prevailing ideology and used her “Conversations” as the vehicle to encourage women to discuss how to fully realize their potential. One of the most poignant pieces of literature written by Fuller was “The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women.” Years later, she revised and expanded this essay into her best known literary work titled “Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” in which she strongly demanded equality between males and females and compared the struggle for women’s rights to that of the abolitionist movement (Bomarito, 2006). Fuller further insisted that all women should be allowed to enter any profession and therefore should not be excluded because of her gender. Perhaps the most controversial, yet liberating of Fuller’s literary remarks was that women should not be forced to submit to the men in their lives, including husbands, fathers, and even brothers. Change of “Women’s...