Review by Choice Review
Jeffrey's careful, detailed, and prescient examination of ordinary women in an extraordinary reform movement--abolitionism--extends the debate over gender and politics in the early Republic. She rejects the oversimplified view that female antislavery activists could, or should, be divided between radicals (feminists) and conservatives. Jeffrey persuasively argues that a commitment to immediate emancipation challenged the political, economic, and religious status quo. More critically, female abolitionists of all stripes "contested the many norms that supposedly governed their behavior and woman's sphere." Initially neither William Lloyd Garrison, who recruited this "silent army," nor these not-so-ordinary women who enlisted in his cause realized the radical implications of their involvement in antislavery agitation. Yet the clear moral absolutes of the antislavery cause provided ordinary women with a public space that gave them the opportunity to engage in politics and economics (largely through antislavery fairs). Ironically it also forced them to challenge implicitly and explicitly the gendered assumptions that structured those areas of public life. Ultimately Garrison's silent army found itself "living with a contradiction": abolitionism empowered these women a with sense of agency and imbued them with an identity that was both rooted in and separate from the sphere of domesticity. An important book. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Morrison; Purdue University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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