Articulating that women at home wielded moral suasion, which would help to end the war, she elided her conservative social ideology and editorially neutral position in the wartime pages of the Lady's Book. She promoted the moral education of children, which she believed was a mother's most important task. Her etiquette, homemaking, and recipe books also demonstrate her interest in making woman's work at home more scientific and more praiseworthy.
Critically, Hale has been viewed more as an important social force than as a prominent author. When Northwood was first published, it received positive reviews including one in the United States Review and Literary Gazette by William Cullen Bryant, who wrote that the book was "another proof to many already existing that neither talents nor materials were wanting in the United States" ( Finley38).
The North American Review ( 1853) declared that Woman's Record was unbalanced, in that, of the four sections, the section on contemporary women and their writings was too long and the other sections too brief. The anonymous writer also takes issue with Hale's inclusion of snippets of writings by women, which the writer felt was not in keeping with the encyclopedia's genre. As to woman's moral superiority, the same reviewer notes, "[W]e have now high domestic authority for saying it is very sensitive doctrine indeed, and as true as the book" (260). Like The Genius of Oblivion ( 1823), Woman's Record may not have received critical acclaim, but both were well received by the book- buying public.
Current criticism centers around the question of whether Hale was a proto- feminist, through the example of her own life, or a retrograde force due to her conviction that separate spheres for the sexes were divinely ordained. While early biographers, such as Ruth Finley ( 1931) and Isabelle Webb Entrikin ( 1946), argue that Hale was the consummate feminist, Ann Douglas, Nina Baym, and Patricia Okker agree that Hale's ideology marked her as an adherent to standards of Victorian womanhood that sought to keep women out of the public realms of politics, commerce, and ideas. Hale's strong antisuffrage rhetoric is also seen by contemporary critics as evidence of her valorization of an ideology that limited, rather than liberated, her loyal readers.
The Genius of Oblivion and Other Original Poems. Concord, NH: Jacob B. Moore, 1823.
Northwood: A Tale of New England. 2 vols. Boston: Bowles and Dearborn, 1827.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers:A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Contributors: Denise D. Knight - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 197.