erment through speech and silence. Frances Malpezzi reads The Silent Partner as it relates to the religion of Phelps's time, specifically to the Social Gospel movement.
Other critics are interested in the historical background of Phelps's fictional world, in terms of the work's relationship to an emerging female professional (businesswoman or physician) ethos, usually in such works as The Silent Partner and Dr. Zay. Some critics, like Susan Albertine, Barbara Bardes and Suzanne Gossett, and Jean-Carwile Masteller, place Phelps's work in a broader historical or literary context. Timothy Morris, however, focuses on how Dr. Zay might have assuaged suspicious middle-class readers because Dr. Zay did not support the stereotypical notion of the time that female physicians were abortionists; indeed, Phelps presents an antiabortionist perspective in her depiction of Dr. Zay. Susan Ward shows how Phelps goes beyond the formula of "True Womanhood" novels by making the love plot secondary to the career plots in The Silent Partner and Dr. Zay. Jack Wilson discusses the competing narratives of George Eliot Armgart and Elizabeth Barrett Browning "Aurora Leigh" as they define the problematics of the woman artist in The Story of Avis.
Finally, the "Gates" novels have received some attention recently, but not as much as in Phelps's day. Recent feminist critics, like Kessler, are less concerned with religious doctrine than with the feminist utopian communities revealed in these works. Barton Levi St. Armand suggests that Phelps's evocation of a feminized heaven in The Gates Ajar serves as inspiration for Dickinson. Nancy Schnog explains how The Gates Ajar allowed Phelps to write about very intimate feminine matters, couched under the condoned "social acts of mourning and condolence" available to middle-class women (42). Jay Martin praises Phelps for painting an accurate picture of the unconscious in The Gates Ajar, which, Martin maintains, served as a precursor to James's and Twain's representation of the supernatural realm.
Hopefully, a new generation of critics and feminists will turn to and appreciate the neglected oeuvres of Phelps; the stories, especially, warrant more attention. During her own time, Sealed Orders was lauded by Whittier, who compared the collection to Hawthorne Twice-Told Tales ( Kessler 1982, 124). On the whole, influences on other writers and connections between Phelps and other writers need to be studied.
The Gates Ajar. Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1868.
Hedged In. Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1870.
The Silent Partner. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1871.
The Story of Avis. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1877.