Women's Unit

Women’s Unit
“If we are to achieve a richer
culture, rich in contrasting
values, we must recognize the
whole gamut of human
possibilities” - Margaret Mead
Women fighting to be heard
• In the late 19th century and early 20th
century, women were fighting for a voice in
politics and literature.
• American women could not vote
• They had almost no political or legal power
• They could not own property
Women had few opportunities
• Education and career opportunities were
limited (teachers, nurses, secretaries, and
maids…and only if you did not have
• Little or no financial independence – you
had to give your paycheck to your father or
• In most marriages, the husband made all
the important decisions
The Right to Vote
The Suffrage Movement
• Susan B. Anthony leads
movement in 1870s
• Four states gave women
the right to vote by 1900
• Suffragists held marches,
protest rallies, and
hunger strikes for their
• All women did not have
the right to vote in the
U.S. until 1920
Feminist Literature
• Female authors wanted to show women were
strong and intelligent – a radical view at this
• More women were going to college despite the
belief at the time that intelligence would destroy
a woman’s beauty.
• “Domestic” topics – home, children, female
friendship, religion, abolition, suffrage, and love.
• Early feminist writers – Emily Dickinson,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kate Chopin,
Sojourner Truth, Louisa May Alcott, Harriet
Beecher Stowe.
Reaction to Women Writing
“America is now wholly
given over to a d—d mob
of scribbling women, and I
should have no chance of
success while the public
taste is occupied with their
trash-and should be
ashamed of myself if I did.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Difficulties for Women Writers
• Conflict over their desire
to write and their role as
• Work dismissed as
• Writing style criticized as
too sentimental and
“didactic” (preachy)
• Domestic topics not seen
as “universal”
Sojourner Truth
(Isabella Baumfree)
“I could work as much
and eat as much as a
man…and ain’t I a
• Freed from slavery when
New York abolished
slavery in 1827.
• Began to lecture to
spread God’s message
• Spoke for abolitionist and
suffragette movements
• Famous “Ain’t I a
Woman” speech was
given unprepared at a
women’s rights
convention in 1851.
Emily Dickinson
• First major American
woman poet
• Completely unknown in
her lifetime; poems were
found by her sister after
her death
• Chose to live in seclusion
• Poetry famous for
unusual imagery, slant
rhyme, odd punctuation
• Wrote about love, death,
hope, success, nature
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
• “It is not that women are
really smaller-minded,
weaker-minded, more
timid and vacillating, but
that whosoever, man or
woman, lives always in a
small, dark place, is
always guarded,
protected, directed and
restrained, will become
inevitably narrowed and
weakened by it.”
The “Rest Cure”
• After the birth of her daughter, Gilman suffered
from postpartum depression which affects 10%
of women who give birth
• Gilman was given the recommended treatment
at that time, “the rest cure” – sleep, avoid
intellectual activity, avoid excitement, do nothing
• This cure almost destroyed her
A Prolific Career
• Wrote “The Yellow
Wallpaper” to challenge
the “rest cure”
• Also wrote novels,
stories, essays and selfpublished a magazine
• All her work focused on
women’s suffrage,
economic independence,
and friendship between
Important Quotations
“And woman should stand beside man as the comrade of
his soul, not the servant of his body.”
“There is no female mind. The brain is not an organ of sex.
Might as well speak of a female liver.”
"A house does not need a wife any more than it needs a
Kate Chopin
• Prolific writer – two novels,
over a hundred short stories,
many poems and reviews.
• Began writing after the death
of her husband; she had 6
children to support.
• Lived in New Orleans and
wrote popular stories about
Creoles, Cajuns, AfricanAmericans
• Very successful as a writer of
“local color” stories; published
in some of the best
publications of the time
• Master of irony – surprise twist
at the end of the story
Until….The Awakening
• Published in 1899
• The story’s topic, adultery, and
the heroine’s actions were
viewed as scandalous.
• Heroine viewed as a bad
mother, a fallen woman, a
selfish human being
• Because the story questioned
traditional views of women and
their role, it ended Chopin’s
• Her work was ignored until the
resurgence of feminism in the