Review by Choice Review

Sizer's study of nine Northern women writers during the critical middle years of the 19th century argues that these women placed themselves in the public eye by the very act of writing while also contributing important themes to the public discourse. Focusing upon well-known writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lydia Maria Child, and Louisa May Alcott as well as now forgotten writers such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (the only African American woman in the group) and Sara Willis Parton (better known as Fanny Fern to her contemporaries), the author shows the ways in which these women shared middle-class values and imbued all of their writings, fiction and non-fiction, with a moral perspective. Sizer's analysis suggests that all of the writers embraced both traditional values (woman as morally superior being) and innovative ones (they were fervently antislavery). But there were notable differences among them: Gail Hamilton was anti-woman suffrage while Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth promoted individualism and the value of free labor. Readers at all levels interested in the intellectual history of the period as well as women's history will find much of interest. J. Sochen; Northeastern Illinois University

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