Observations on the Real Rights of Women and Other Writings

Observations on the Real Rights of Women and Other Writings

Observations on the Real Rights of Women and Other Writings

Observations on the Real Rights of Women and Other Writings

Synopsis

Following in the path of her distinguished Puritan forebears, Hannah Mather Crocker used her skills as a writer primarily to persuade. Unlike those forebears, however, she did not begin her career as a published writer until well into middle age, after the death of her husband, Joseph Crocker, and after having raised ten children. The works collected here include previously unpublished poetry, drama, memoirs, sermons, and essays on American identity, education, and history, As well as the three texts published in her lifetime. This volume is named for her most famous work, Observations on the Real Rights of Women. Originally published in 1818, it is widely considered the first published treatise on women's rights written by an American woman and serves as a rare example of women's views of their own roles within the early American republic. This collection also mirrors the many changes that occurred in the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, highlighting the shift in attitude toward women's rights, education, and other reform movements as well as the American Revolution. Crocker's writing provides a rare and valuable window into the concerns of women who embodied Enlightenment ideals during the years of the early republic.

Excerpt

In doing research for Signs of the Times in Cotton Mather’s Paterna: A Study of Puritan Autobiography (2000), I traveled to Boston to consult “Biblia Americana,” Mather’s vast commentary on the Bible, at the Massachusetts Historical Society. While there I also worked at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, where I came upon a reference to Cotton Mather’s granddaughter, Hannah Mather Crocker, in the Mather Family Papers. That bit of serendipity led me to the collection of her many unpublished texts at aas and her unpublished “Reminiscences and Traditions of Boston” at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, in addition to her published texts, A Series of Letters on Free Masonry (1815), The School of Reform, or Seaman’s Safe Pilot to the Cape of Good Hope (1816), and Observations on the Real Rights of Women (1818).

Although I found a few scattered references to Hannah Mather Crocker in the secondary literature, the dearth of material about her made it clear that the project of reclaiming neglected women authors is not yet complete. To give Crocker the attention she deserves I first wrote entries about her for The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States, edited by Cathy N. Davidson and Linda Wagner-Martin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 222–23, and The Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Women Writers to 1820, edited by Carla Mulford et al. A more recent piece appears in An Encyclopedia of American Women’s History, edited by Hasia Diner (New York: Facts on File, forthcoming). I have also given papers on Crocker at meetings of the Society of Early . . .

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