Catalogue


Women and reform in a New England community, 1815-1860 /
Carolyn J. Lawes.
imprint
Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, c2000.
description
x, 265 p. : ill.
ISBN
0813121310 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, c2000.
isbn
0813121310 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
3442529
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Carolyn J. Lawes is assistant professor of history at Old Dominion University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-05-01:
In the tradition of social historians, Lawes's community study argues that antebellum reform efforts of Worcester, Massachusetts, women were more autonomous--i.e., remarkably free of male supervision--and more political than earlier studies of New England and upstate New York have represented. Embracing middle-class feminine norms of piety and domesticity, women nonetheless played powerful roles in their local community. Despite (and because of) their exclusion from voting privileges, three wealthy, pious women of First Church formed a new congregation after objecting to the election of a pastor. Women's sewing societies moved from support of missionaries and seminarians to political issues such as antislavery. Lawes contrasts the "maternal" approach of the Worcester Children's Friend Society's orphan home with the "paternal" approach of Charles Loring Brace's New York Children's Aid Society. Finally, Lawes links the formation of the Female Employment Society to feminist consciousness raised during the first two national women's rights conventions held in the city. Lawes admits that the nonlinear development of these various women's groups precludes a linear narrative, and the book's organization thus suffers. However, the study is brief, interesting, informative, and accessible. All levels. K. Gedge; West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Fine research into the gendered nuances of social activism in the antebellum period.-- Deborah Van Brockhoven" -- Deborah Van Brockhoven
"Interesting, informative, and accessible.-- Choice" -- Choice
"Interesting, informative, and accessible." -- Choice
"Able to show the way in which women's groups that are not generally seen as having a high degree of political consciousness or agitating for social change did in fact contain elements of both." -- American Historical Review
"Able to show the way in which women's groups that are not generally seen as having a high degree of political consciousness or agitating for social change did in fact contain elements of both.-- American Historical Review" -- American Historical Review
"A model social history that amply demonstrates the complex interplay between women's domestic and civic work and the socioeconomic conditions of their time." -- H-Net Book Review
"A model social history that amply demonstrates the complex interplay between women's domestic and civic work and the socioeconomic conditions of their time.-- H-Net Book Review" -- H-Net Book Review
"An important book that enhances our understanding of women's lived experiences in antebellum New England." -- History of Education Quarterly
"An important book that enhances our understanding of women's lived experiences in antebellum New England.-- History of Education Quarterly" -- History of Education Quarterly
"Lawes easily demonstrates [Worcester, Massachusetts's] suitability as a test case for challenging some widely accepted generalizations about women's roles in antebellum New York and New England.-- Connecticut History" -- Connecticut History
"Should be read by all who are interested in early American women's history, especially those interested in women and poverty." -- Journal of the Early Republic
"Should be read by all who are interested in early American women's history, especially those interested in women and poverty.-- Journal of the Early Republic" -- Journal of the Early Republic
"In this sensitively interpreted book, Lawes provides prospective on women's role in shaping New England's religious, charitable, and reform movements." -- Educational Book Review
"Fine research into the gendered nuances of social activism in the antebellum period." -- Deborah Van Brockhoven
"A well-written and persuasively argued contribution to women's history in antebellum America." -- New England Quarterly
"A well-written and persuasively argued contribution to women's history in antebellum America.-- New England Quarterly" -- New England Quarterly
"In this sensitively interpreted book, Lawes provides prospective on women's role in shaping New England's religious, charitable, and reform movements.-- Educational Book Review" -- Educational Book Review
"An insightful contribution to women's history which argues that gendered interests characterized women's activism and united women across class, religious, and (sometimes) racial boundaries in antebellum communities.-- H-Net Reviews" -- H-Net Reviews
"Argues the case for antebellum women's public influence and cross-class gender solidarity." -- Journal of American History
"Argues the case for antebellum women's public influence and cross-class gender solidarity.-- Journal of American History" -- Journal of American History
"Lawes easily demonstrates [Worcester, Massachusetts's] suitability as a test case for challenging some widely accepted generalizations about women's roles in antebellum New York and New England." -- Connecticut History
"An insightful contribution to women's history which argues that gendered interests characterized women's activism and united women across class, religious, and (sometimes) racial boundaries in antebellum communities." -- H-Net Reviews
"Thoroughly researched and sensitively interpreted.... Writing with verve and style, Lawes vivifies antebellum Worcester women.-- Anne M. Boylan" -- Anne M. Boylan
"Thoroughly researched and sensitively interpreted.... Writing with verve and style, Lawes vivifies antebellum Worcester women." -- Anne M. Boylan
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 2000
Reference & Research Book News, August 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
" Interpretations of women in the antebellum period have long dwelt upon the notion of public versus private gender spheres. As part of the ongoing reevaluation of the prehistory of the women's movement, Carolyn Lawes challenges this paradigm and the primacy of class motivation. She studies the women of antebellum Worcester, Massachusetts, discovering that whatever their economic background, women there publicly worked to remake and improve their community in their own image. Lawes analyzes the organized social activism of the mostly middle-class, urban, white women of Worcester and finds that they were at the center of community life and leadership. Drawing on rich local history collections, Lawes weaves together information from city and state documents, court cases, medical records, church collections, newspapers, and diaries and letters to create a portrait of a group of women for whom constant personal and social change was the norm. Throughout Women and Reform in a New England Community, conventional women make seemingly unconventional choices. A wealthy Worcester matron helped spark a women-led rebellion against ministerial authority in the town's orthodox Calvinist church. Similarly, a close look at the town's sewing circles reveals that they were vehicles for political exchange as well as social gatherings that included men but intentionally restricted them to a subordinate role. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the women of Worcester had taken up explicitly political and social causes, such as an orphan asylum they founded, funded, and directed. Lawes argues that economic and personal instability rather than a desire for social control motivated women, even relatively privileged ones, into social activism. She concludes that the local activism of the women of Worcester stimulated, and was stimulated by, their interest in the first two national women's rights conventions, held in Worcester in 1850 and 1851. Far from being marginalized from the vital economic, social, and political issues of their day, the women of this antebellum New England community insisted upon being active and ongoing participants in the debates and decisions of their society and nation.
Unpaid Annotation
As part of the ongoing reevaluation of the prehistory of the women's movement, Carolyn Lawes analyzes the organized social activism of the mostly middle-class, urban, white women of Worcester, Massachusetts, and finds that they were at the center of community life and leadership. Neither frontier nor densely urban, Worcester encountered the stresses common to so many communities in the Northeast during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was also the site of the first two national women's rights conventions in the 1850s.Arguing against the long-accepted paradigm of separate public and private spheres for women's lives, Lawes defines and describes what women were able to do and why, and seeks to reinterpret American women's history.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Keeping the Faith: Women's Leadership in an Orthodox Congregational Churchp. 9
Missionaries and More: Women, Sewing, and the Antebellum Sewing Circlep. 45
Maternal Politics: Gender and the Formation of the Worcester Children's Friend Societyp. 83
"Rachel Weeping for Her Children": Mothers, Children, and the Antebellum Foster Familyp. 113
From Feminism to Female Employment: Organized Women in Worcester in the 1850sp. 161
Conclusionp. 181
Statistical Datap. 185
Notesp. 189
Bibliographyp. 237
Indexp. 259
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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