"Transatlantic Feminisms in the Age of Revolutions"

Article excerpt

"Transatlantic Feminisms in the Age of Revolutions" Lisa L. Moore, Joanna Brooks and Caroline Wigginton (Eds.) Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, 2012 Book Review by Alexandra Petrescu Postdoctoral Researcher Affiliated with the "Sexuality and Gender Studies" Research Network, University of Birmingham, UK Submission: January 23rd, 2013 Accepted: April 11th, 2013

As feminist scholars of the eighteenth century English and American literature, the authors of this anthology want to know how transatlantic movements of peoples impacted women's lives, ideas, imaginations, hopes, and fears (p. 7). Furthermore, they want to know how transatlantic movements and encounters with women from other countries and continents affected the way women thought about themselves in a time of political revolution (p. 7).

Transatlantic Feminisms in the Age of Revolutions includes speeches, letters, essays, petitions, poetry, court transcripts, religious tracts, excerpts from novels and polemic pamphlets. As L. Moore, J. Brooks and C. Wigginton observe, the word "feminism" originated in England in the late nineteenth century, but the texts collected in this book prove that the feminist ideas existed in Europe as early as the fifteenth century, and around the Atlantic world from the sixteenth century. Women's English language writings from the seventeenth and eighteenth century influenced massively the Anglophone feminism which consolidated around three major issues: the nature and source of sexual difference, the institutionalized injustice of heterosexual marriage, and women's access to education (p. 8). L. Moore, J. Brooks and C. Wigginton define the "Age of Revolutions" as the culmination of centuries of radical change around the Atlantic world in a concentrated period of organized revolution to advance human freedom (p. 9). This period of radical transformation didn't bring any advancement for the rights of women because they were excluded from any form of political deliberation. Thus, the authors of this anthology can ask themselves if women had an age of Revolutions. The answer is yes if we take in consideration the example of American women such as Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren who can be considered revolutionary because they expressed their views about the status of women in society, demanding, as Abigail Adams in 1776, the end of the tyranny of men over women. Women participated in debates about revolution and liberation, and the texts collected in this anthology are a living proof of this commitment: fifty-nine feminist voices (many of women, but also of men) are brought together in this volume, some well-known, some anonymous, but all very similar. They constitute the main corpus of this book (pp. 35-371). These voices echo in chronological order, starting with Anne Marbury Hutchinson (1591-1643) and continuing with Thomas Paine (1737-1809), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), Mary Wollstonecraft(1759-1797) etc.

Presenting the historical background of the age of Revolutions, L. Moore, J. Brooks and C. Wigginton stress the fact that the American and French revolutions were incomplete for women. Even though the French revolution concluded with a declaration of rights for citizens, women were not included in this declaration, which sparked the dissatisfaction of feminists such as Olympe de Gouges who published in 1791 the "Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizen", and Mary Wollstonecraftwho addressed "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" to Talleyrand, the minister of education. …