Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§55 Susan Warner
(1819–1885)

Susan Warner14 lived with her sister near West Point and socialized with the American army officers and cadets from that institution. In Walks from Eden (1866) she used a family conversation between an uncle and his nieces and nephews to teach her young readers about the opening chapters of Genesis.

Warner paid close attention to geographical, historical and cultural settings, portraying the character of Uncle Sam as an expert in Middle Eastern geography and languages. Uncle Sam described in great detail the exotic people and places he had seen in his travels. He repeatedly described the women of the Middle East as "black-eyed" women; this was likely a coded reference to the race of Rebekah.15 Warner used Uncle Sam to critique contemporary female culture, using Rebekah's veil as a way into the Woman Question. Warner clearly articulated a prosperity gospel using the authoritative voice of Uncle Sam to affirm that good people always get on in the world. Warner painted a very positive picture of Rebekah as a business woman.

The grandmother's matriarchal voice brought spiritual wisdom and insight to the conversation. She discussed the prayer of Abraham's steward. Warner argued for the authority of the text and faith over reason; the facts recorded in the Bible must be acknowledged to be true even if they do not appear reasonable.

This book was written for children; the voices of the children and young teens in the book allowed younger readers to feel as though they had a voice in the retelling of Rebekah's story. Like Morgan, Warner raised the question of women's roles. Like Alexander, Warner emphasized the historical distance of the story.

From Susan Warner, Walks from Eden (New York: Hurst & Co., 1866),
386–410.

14 For more information about Warner see part 1, "Eve—The Mother of Us All."

15 Mary DeJong, "Dark-Eyed Daughters: Nineteenth-Century Popular Portrayals of
Biblical Women," Women's Studies 19, no. 314 (1991): 286.

-286-

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