Career Women of America, 1776-1840

Career Women of America, 1776-1840

Career Women of America, 1776-1840

Career Women of America, 1776-1840

Excerpt

I never was of the opinion that the pursuits of the sexes ought to be the same. . . . Yet to cultivate the qualities with which we are endowed can never be called infringing the prerogatives of man. Why, my dear Cousin, were we furnished with such powers unless the improvement of them could conduce to the happiness of society? Do you suppose the mind of woman the only work of God that was "made in vain?" . . . Women would be under the same degree of subordination that they are now; enlighten and expand their minds, and they will perceive the necessity of such a regulation to preserve the order and happiness of society.

Eliza Southgate, the eighteen-year old author of these reflections written in 1801, put in a nutshell an attitude which became increasingly common in the early nineteenth century. Forty years later so independent a person as Catherine Beecher wrote in ardent lip-service to this ideal:

But if females as they approach the other sex in intellectual elevation, began to claim. . . the peculiar prerogatives of that sex, education would prove a doubtful and dangerous blessing. But this will never be the result. For the more intelligent a woman becomes, the more she can appreciate the wisdom of the ordinance that appointed her subordinate station, and the more her tastes will conform to the graceful and dignified retirement and submission it involves.

These sentiments would have sounded almost as odd in colonial days as they do now, although not for the same reasons. Women's sphere was not a subject of controversy or reflection in pioneer America. Men ruled in church and state, and they furnished the great majority of workers in practi-

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.