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The achivements of female writers in 19th century

Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. At issue was the right to vote, to wear bloomers, to be free from corseting, to work outside the home, and to have a place in the world beyond the domestic sphere. At the end of the nineteenth century, writers such as Rebecca Harding Davis, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman were already writing about women seeking lives outside traditional feminine norms.

It is impossible, indeed, to trace developments in twentieth-century women's writing without considering one of the most important texts produced by an American woman in the late nineteenth century: Kate Chopin's The Awakening 1899.

Chopin's protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is dissatisfied with marriage, children, her home, and the stifling codes of a society that refuses to acknowledge women as creative, sexual beings.

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In response to her confining world, Edna is driven on a quest for autonomy, solitude, and self-discovery. This radical pursuit ultimately leads Edna to swim into the ocean until her strength leaves her. Because nineteenth-century writing, and by extension society, offered no effective narrative solutions to Edna's struggle to achieve selfhood, Chopin's protagonist drowns. Although Edna's search for autonomy in a society hostile to women's independence ends with her drowning, each successive generation of women writers push Edna further and further to the shore of self-discovery.

As the twentieth century progresses, the voices of women become louder and more artistically innovative.

Writing as a Woman in the Twentieth Century

Women of color join the chorus, making American stories more vigorous, complex, and inventive. In the twentieth century, women's writing travels a course in which each generation of female characters progresses toward vital and independent lives, free from society's traditional limitations.

From Lily Bart's death, hastened by her resistance to society's marital expectations, in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth 1905 to Sethe's escape from slavery into selfhood in Toni Morrison's Beloved 1987women writing fiction in the twentieth century created textual reflections of women's positions in American culture. Writing Their Lives in the New Century The suffrage movement, and the involvement of women in surrounding political movements such as socialism and the temperance movement, inspired a particular genre of writing that included both creative and political texts which examined the issues and problems facing women at the turn of the century.

In The Traffic in Women, an essay published in Anarchism and Other Essays 1917Emma Goldman views prostitution as a larger trope for the oppression of women in a capitalistic society. Elizabeth Robins's play Votes for Women produced in 1907 and her novel The Convert 1907 portray heroines rejecting marriage proposals and undergoing abortions at a time when abortions were both scandalous and illegal, thus refusing domestic expectations for women to maintain their separate and equal place in the world.

The autobiography also became a popular form of writing for women. Written by women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice James, autobiographies exposed the private thoughts and feelings of women at a time when the public expression of dissatisfaction by women was taboo. Other women writers interested in exploring the social situation of women did so through utopian fiction, often envisioning women living in a world free from gender constrictions.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman expressed her yearnings for women's equality in Herland 1915a utopian novel in which an all-female society is capable of reproducing without men and of building and maintaining a complex community. Through the genres of regionalism and realism, women writers concentrated on the domestic details of women's lives in order to explore the powerful relationship between women's development and the society that created them.

In regionalism, women established a congruous, and sometimes utopistic, relationship with the land as their thoughts, feelings, and struggles were reflected in the natural world around them. Heroines in realist novels were often set adrift in cityscapes, their fates tied to the whims the achivements of female writers in 19th century capitalism and patriarchal control.

Women writers of regionalism and realism commonly used romantic and domestic plots to explicate not only women's position in the home, but in the world at large. Writers of realism attempted to depict life in an objective manner and created stories that often focused on the details of everyday life.

Edith Wharton's novels concentrate on upper-class women confined by the expectations imposed on them by a materialistic and acquisitive society. In her novels The House of Mirth 1905Custom of the Country 1913 and The Age of Innocence 1920Wharton portrays wealthy New York City society and how, at the turn of the century, this society created a generation of women, indulged and sheltered, who are disconnected from the world beyond tea parties, balls, and dressmakers.

Wharton condemns the society for making these women ornamental and useless, while she simultaneously depicts them as sabotaging themselves through an acceptance of the definition of women as decorative objects. As America became an increasingly large and complicated nation, interest grew in how Americans living in different parts of the country talked, ate, and lived.

  • The change was not only in form, but also content;
  • From Lily Bart's death, hastened by her resistance to society's marital expectations, in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth 1905 to Sethe's escape from slavery into selfhood in Toni Morrison's Beloved 1987 , women writing fiction in the twentieth century created textual reflections of women's positions in American culture.

Women regionalist writers, whether their narratives focused on the South, East, or West, wrote of women's domestic lives with a specificity and complexity that has been overlooked. Wilkins Freeman's A New England Nun and Other Stories 1891 capture the New England landscape in exquisite detail, rendering a world of stoic women who live in a chosen state of often blissful isolation.

Kate Chopin, Ellen Glasgow, and Grace King were all southerners who anchored their stories in the southern landscape.

Both King and Chopin, in the subtle and complex stories, The Little Convent Girl 1892 and Desiree's Baby 1892respectively, confront the issues of race and gender by delineating the convoluted nature of miscegenation, racial categories, and self-definition in the Deep South.

  • The stories of Pale Horse, Pale Rider 1939 highlight the elegant and controlled style of Porter that embodies a tension between the author's ironic distance and her close connection with her characters, who struggle for personal freedom;
  • A Street in Bronzeville 1945 and Bronzeville Boys and Girls 1956 concentrate on the boredom of poor youth and the sadness of mothers who have lost their children and men to violence and the streets;
  • Keckley was judged harshly for revealing personal information about the First Family.

Ellen Glasgow's novels, such as Virginia 1912 and Barren Ground 1925capture the South on the cusp of change from a rural, agriculturally based society to a modern, mechanized one. Glasgow dramatizes southern women's struggle to escape the claustrophobic, patriarchal social code that historically dominated southern life.

Austin rejects the names given to the places she visits, creating her own names for these sites and thus personalizing the landscape and symbolically blending herself inextricably with the earth. The heroines of Willa Cather's O Pioneers! Women Outside the Mainstream African-American women at the turn of the twentieth century were also involved in writing about the world around them. Alice Dunbar-Nelson's short stories, published at the turn of the century, helped establish the short story genre within the tradition of African-American literature.

In 1900 Pauline E. Hopkins published Contending Forces: Though the novel's framework is based on the traditional tropes of domestic and historical romance, Hopkins provides a startling account of bourgeois African-American life and offers the domestic drama, long the staple the achivements of female writers in 19th century white women writers, as a model of resistance to racism. Women of other ethnicities and races also wrote at the turn of the twentieth century.

Bonnin combined American storytelling techniques, such as the romantic plot, with Native American legends and contemporary native culture at a time when Indians were largely absent from the American cultural landscape.

Mary Antin, a Jewish immigrant from Czarist Russia, introduced an important addition to American ethnic minority women's fiction: Antin's From Plotzk to Boston 1899 and The Promised Land 1912 the achivements of female writers in 19th century present the experiences of a woman eager to integrate herself successfully into American culture and offer stories of resistance to typical constructions of femininity.

Antin writes passionately of the importance of higher education and self-reliance for all American women. As the writing in the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century shows, women were no longer content to remain silent about their dissatisfaction with their roles in the world.

Political tracts, realistic renderings of New York City society, and carefully crafted depictions of the Nebraskan prairie often covertly express women's desires for sexual equality, social recognition, and self-determinism. Many Americans hailed these revolutions as the push the country needed to truly come alive as a nation.

However, some American artists and writers saw a dark side to this mechanical modernity. For these writers the assembly line, mechanized industrial machinery, and the ability to record and play back music and human voices, project images on a screen, and traverse huge distances were the result of technological innovations that had the power to permanently disconnect human beings from each other. Many women, in contrast, faced changes in the world with enthusiasm.

The genre of writing deemed modernism emphasized a radical redefining of literary style, syntax, and subject matter. Modernists sought to unhook language from its traditional meanings and definitions and to push the form of storytelling beyond its traditionally rigid constructions.

Because this new genre demolished traditional cultural hierarchies and artistic assumptions, it allowed women to rise to the fore of literary creation. Long left out of mainstream American culture, women writers anxiously embraced newly emerging forms of poetry and fiction as a way to best capture the unique experience of being a woman in modern America. This woman's sentence was not only created through the fresh construction of language but also through newly discovered subjects.

Modernist women wrote of lesbianism and sexual freedom while rejecting domesticity, and in the process shattered all traditions in women's writing. Poetry of the Modern Woman Women embraced a new poetic ideal, infusing their poems with challenging language and using form itself as a medium in which to express literary and cultural resistance.

The poets Louise Bogan and Amy Lowell dedicated much of their poetry to the issues of modern womanhood. In her poem, Women 1922Bogan exhorted women to stop living as if they had no wilderness in them. One of Amy Lowell's most striking poems, The Sisters 1925is a long meditation on the silence that surrounds female poetics: Taking us by and large, we're a queer lot We women who write poetry. And when you think How few of us there've been, it's queerer still.

Hilda Doolittle, better known as H. Her poem, Eurydice 1917, 1925considered to be one of H. Elinor Wylie's poetry, the most successful of which was collected in Nets to Catch the Wind 1921strikes a balance between the modernist austerity of technique and a delicate evocation of the natural world.

Wylie's pessimistic stance on the modern world is marked by her recurrent attention to the theme of feminine alienation and exile. Wylie influenced poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose poetry often takes a backseat to the mythology surrounding Millay herself. Her ethereal beauty, red hair, and green eyes embodied the mythical flapper of the Jazz Age.

Millay's poetry, though at times dark and reflective, nonetheless most often celebrates sexual and personal independence.

Her collection of poetry, Second April 1921features Millay's most innovative contributions to modernist verse: Millay revitalized the traditional sonnet by removing the female muse as subject and replacing her with a male beloved who becomes the focus of sensual love.

Standing in opposition to Millay's sensuality are the poems of Marianne Moore, whose poetic aesthetic is marked by a dedication to compression of language and image and an extraordinary attention to a singular object.

Moore often focused on animals, as in the poem The Jerboa 1932emphasizing the vast lessons couched in a tiny, particular entity. Incorporating already-published materials into her poems—magazine articles, newspaper clippings, advertising slogans—through the use of quotation marks, Moore creates a powerful pastiche in which a world of writing speaks both to and through her.

Using quotation and endnotes as the achivements of female writers in 19th century poetic technique, Moore successfully engages the readers in the text, casting them as cocreators of the poem. Thus, Moore's work represents a communal or meeting space where Moore dually instructs the reader while exposing the construction behind her lessons. The Fiction of Modernism Women who wrote modernist prose experimented with language as much as their sisters who wrote poetry.

Their new literary approaches stand in stark contrast to the novels written by women at the beginning of the century, which often featured a standard, linear narrative and presented women mostly in domestic and romantic entanglements that could only covertly express women's issues and desires. Modernist fiction freed the female character from operating only in this domestic sphere.

Black Women Writers of the 19th Century

No longer bound by its constraints, modernist women writers used the newly emerging literary forms to critique directly domesticity, traditional love relationships, and the trap capitalism often set for the women who decided that being modern meant being a consumer. Gertrude Stein is cited more often than any other woman writer as the leader of the female branch of the modernist movement.

  • Although confessional poetry revolutionized women's poetics, other poets like Elizabeth Bishop, working from a more traditional vein, examined women's lives in profound ways;
  • Written by women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice James, autobiographies exposed the private thoughts and feelings of women at a time when the public expression of dissatisfaction by women was taboo;
  • If Edith Wharton's House of Mirth crystallized the plight of women at the turn of the twentieth century, then Toni Morrison's Beloved is a testament not only to the strength of African-American women, but is symbolic of the journey made by American women through the twentieth century;
  • Antin writes passionately of the importance of higher education and self-reliance for all American women.

She eschewed all literary expectations as she sought to release language from its common meanings, remove linear time from the narrative, and reinvent the reader's relationship to the achivements of female writers in 19th century text. Stein's prose poems in Tender Buttons 1914 fracture the totems of domesticity teapots, cakes, freshly washed laundry into multifaceted word pictures, symbolically deleting the domestic simplicity of these items and infusing them with feminine sensuality, thus redefining these common words and images for her readers.

The most significant work of Djuna Barnes, a reclusive yet influential member of the modernist movement, is Nightwood 1937which explores a turbulent love affair between two women. It is also a dense and complicated text redolent with grotesque imagery, metaphysical speculation about the relationship between body and spirit, and an exuberant exploration of language.

Thus, in Nightwood, Barnes explodes the traditional romantic plot, modernizing it not only by focusing on lesbian characters but also by narrating this transgressive love story in experimental language and narrative form.

Katherine Anne Porter's short stories often deal with women who are torn between a desire for traditional domesticity and a yearning for an independent life. The stories of Pale Horse, Pale Rider 1939 highlight the elegant and controlled style of Porter that embodies a tension between the author's ironic distance and her close connection with her characters, who struggle for personal freedom.

Dorothy Parker's short stories, poems, and criticism are often remembered for their humor and dark, sardonic edge. Like Porter, Parker exposes the moment of discovery of self, but for Parker this moment is more often disappointing than revelatory. Her story, The Big Blonde 1929best represents Parker's interest, often comically rendered, in the disjunction between outward appearances and inward feelings.

Eudora Welty combined a sharp sense of humor with a precise evocation of her native Mississippi landscape. Her first collection of fiction, A Curtain of Green, and Other Stories 1941is marked not only by humor but also by the precision of metaphor, a perfect rendering of southern idiom, and a simplicity of language that often belies the complicated undercurrents running below the text.

Like turn-of-the-century regionalist writers, Welty often used the domestic drama as a starting point of her critique of American culture; however, her mythological symbols, the often nonlinear shape of her narrative, and her focus on the underdogs of society allows her work to resonate beyond the borders of her region.