In this essay I will discuss and analyze the social forces that influenced American women writers of the period of 1865 to 1912. I will describe the specific roles female authors played in this period and explain how the perspectives of female authors differed from their male contemporaries.
As the United States was continuing recovering from the Civil War and embracing the expansion of the West, industrialization, immigration and the growth of cities, women’s roles in America were changing by the transformation of this new society. During the period of 1865-1912, women found themselves challenging to break the political structure, power holders, cultural practices and beliefs in their “male” dominated world. After the Fifteenth Amendment gave African American men the right to vote, women groups say the amendment betrayed the efforts of racial equality and equality of the sexes. Women now realize they have restricted rights no matter what their social status, economic standing, cultural history, or political connections were. Through organizations such as the American Women’s Suffrage Association and The Women’s Christian Temperance Union gave all women the advocating platform for women’s rights. The industrial revolution gave direction for national literature with new themes, forms, subjects, regions, authors and audiences. Through magazines, newspapers and journals opportunities occurred that created a large new female voice of writers for women. Baym (2008) states: “Women from many social groups, African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and immigrants began to write for publication, and a rapidly growing market for their work helped confirm authorship as a possible career” (p.4). Baym (2008) also states: “For many women writers, magazines provided an important public forum in which to explore new views of women and women’s rights” (p. 5). “Without the periodicals, many writers would not have been able to support themselves; the income and audiences these magazines provided were crucial to further information of the complex literary tradition of a vast nation undergoing modernization” (p. 5). As American women writers of the 1865 to 1912 period the social factors that influenced their writing are race, culture, religion, education, citizenship, economic status, marital status, and family. Race, culture, marital status, and citizenship social factors are recognized through the writing of several women writers such as: Sarah Winnemucca, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883), recounts the events of her life in the context of Piute culture and history. Baym (2008) describes the situation: “Along with Native American reservations came a new desire to “study” the tribes-always with the expectation that their members would “vanish” (p.2). Zitkala Sa, Impression of an Indian Childhood (1900), recounts being uprooted by palefaces from her tribal home and attending a missionary school to assimilate her into American society. According to Baym (2008) Bret Harte, “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (1870), states: “In late February 1860 when the editor-in-chief was out of town, Harte wrote an editorial expressing outrage over the massacre in nearby Eureka of sixty Native Americans, mostly women and children, by a small gang of white vigilantes (p. 307). Baym (2008) states: “While the Lakota writer Zitkala Sa (Gertude Simmons Bonnin) published prose accounts of her life towards the end of the nineteenth century, it was not until the twentieth century with the work of Native writers such as Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyhesa) (1858-1939), also a Lakota, among others that a “modern” Indian literature began to be produced (p.2). Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1910), and other writings provided a sense of racial, political, social and economic abuse Chinese immigrants experienced. Baym (2008) states: “In many of Sui Sin Far’s journalistic and...
References: Baym, Nina (2008). The Norton Anthology of American Literature. : New York, NY,
W. W. Norton Company, Inc. Cowen, Ruth Schwartz .l976c "Two Washes in the Morning and a Bridge Party at Night: The American Housewife Between the Wars," Women 's Studies, 3 (l976) l47-l72. 1974.
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