U.S. Intellectual History Blog

A Woman’s Work: Toward a Bibliography

Embarking on a study of early American women’s intellectual history calls for a strong bibliographical base, and I’m using this post to learn your news and views of useful literature. Hopefully, we can refer to and build on Patrick S. O’Donnell’s excellent list of resources regarding “Women Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment,” published here. Since this nascent project has a public history feel—I’m interested in how women’s lives and intellectual contributions (ca. 1612-1891) are reflected in everything from standard scholarship to city statues and social crusades—I have listed select digital and archival resources for the first phase (1612-1848), below.

This is, of course, only a preliminary list. Paging all historians, librarians, editors, archivists, journalists, and history fans: Please add your recommendations in the comments.

Early American Women in Intellectual History: Books & Digital Resources

Allgor, Catherine. Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

American Women: A Gateway to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States.

Baym, Nina. American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790-1860. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Berkin, Carol. First Generations: Women in Colonial America. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996.

Carol Berkin, Margaret S. Crocco, Barbara Winslow, eds. Clio in the Classroom: A Guide for Teaching U.S. Women’s History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Boydston, Jeanne. Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Brekus, Catherine A. Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Burgett, Bruce. Sentimental Bodies: Sex, Gender, and Citizenship in the Early Republic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Cott, Nancy F. The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman’s Sphere” in New England, 1780-1835. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

Discovering American Women’s History Online

Duke Universities Libraries, African American Women’s History Resources at Rubenstein Library.

Foster, Thomas A., ed. Women in Early America. New York: New York University Press, 2015.

Gundersen, Joan R. To Be Useful to the World: Women in Revolutionary America, 1740-1790. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Hayes, Kevin J. A Colonial Woman’s Bookshelf. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996.

Heidi Brayman Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly, eds. Reading Women: Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Helsinger, Elizabeth K. The woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883. New York: Garland, 1983.

Hinding, Andrea, ed., et al. Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States. New York: Bowker, 1979.

Kelley, Mary. Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Education, and Public Life in America’s Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Kelly, Catherine E. In the New England Fashion: Reshaping Women’s Lives in the Nineteenth Century. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Kerber, Linda K. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America. New York: Norton, 1986.

Kierner, Cynthia A. Southern Women in Revolution, 1776-1800: Personal and Political Narratives. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Kraus, Natasha Kirsten. A New Type of Womanhood: Discursive Politics and Social Change in Antebellum America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Rebecca Kugel and Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, eds. Native Women’s History in Eastern North America Before 1900: A Guide to Research and Writing. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

McMahon, Lucia. Mere Equals: The Paradox of Educated Women in the Early American Republic. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012.

McMillen, Sally G. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Myres, Sandra L. Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800-1915. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

Nash, Margaret A. Women’s Education in the United States, 1780-1840. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

National Archives, Research Guide, American Women’s History.

National Women’s History Museum

New-York Historical Society, Center for the Study of Women’s History

New York Public Library, Digital Schomburg, African American Women Writers of the 19th Century.

Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Plane, Ann Marie. Colonial Intimacies: Indian Marriage in Early New England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000.

Richter, Amy G. Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad, and the Rise of Public Domesticity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Rust, Marion. Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson’s Early American Women. Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by the University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2008.

Salmon, Marylynn. Women and the Law of Property in Early America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1986.

Snyder, Terri L. Brabbling Women: Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Tetrault, Lisa. The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Winterer, Caroline. The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750-1900. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.

Wulf, Karin A. Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000.

Woloch, Nancy. Early American Women: A Documentary History, 1600-1900. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.

Women’s History Month

Zagarri, Rosemarie. Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Early American Women in Intellectual History: Articles

Brown, Kathleen M. “Beyond the Great Debates: Gender and Race in Early America.” Reviews in American History 26 (1998): 96-123.

Gaul, Theresa Strouth. “Recovering Recovery: Early American Women and Legacy’s Future.” Legacy 26 (2009): 262-283.

Gordon, Jean. “Early American Women Artists and the Social Context in Which They Worked.” American Quarterly 30 (1978): 54-69.

Scott, Joan W. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” The American Historical Review 91 (1986): 1053-1075.

Snyder, Terri L. “Refiguring Women in Early American History.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69 (2012): 421-450.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. “Of Pens and Needles: Sources in Early American Women’s History.” The Journal of American History 77 (1990): 200-207.

Winterer, Caroline. “Is There an Intellectual History of Early American Women?” Modern Intellectual History 4 (2007): 173-190.

15 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Not sure if they’ll all fit within your category, but here’s a few I noticed not on the list:

    Carol Berkin, “‘What an Alarming Crisis Is This?’: Early American Women and Their Histories,” in The World Turned Upside-Down: the State of Eighteenth-Century American Studies at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century, ed. Michael V. Kennedy and William G. Shade (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2001), 254–267.

    Carol Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence (New York: Vintage, 2006).

    Ruth H. Bloch, “The American Revolution, Wife Beating, and the Emergent Value of Privacy,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5, no. 2 (September 1, 2007): 223–251.

    Theda Perdue, Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988).

    Jane Kamensky, Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England (Oxford University Press, 1999).

    Linda K. Kerber, “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman‘S Place: the Rhetoric of Women’S History,” The Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 9–39.

    Linda K. Kerber, “The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment-an American Perspective,” American Quarterly 28, no. 2 (1976): 187–205.

    Carol Lasser, “Gender, Ideology, and Class in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 10, no. 3 (1990): 331–337.

    Susan Branson, Those Fiery Frenchified Dames: Women and Political Culture in Early National Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

    Margaret Nash, “Rethinking Republican Motherhood: Benjamin Rush and the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia,” Journal of the Early Republic 17, no. 2 (1997): 171–191.

  2. Here are a few I can think right off the bat.
    Mia Bay, Toward a Intellectual History of Black Women

    Megan Marshall, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

    Kimberly Hamlin, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America

    Sally G. McMillen, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life

    Ruth Block “The Origins of Feminism and the Limits of Enlightenment” in Modern Intellectual History, 2006

    Most of these I have posted a podcast conversation with the author on my website.

  3. There is colonial material in The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women, 1558-1680, ed. Johanna Harris, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

  4. Nice to see some bibliography development on the blog! I think these all fit:

    Sheila Skemp, First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2009)

    Ruth Bloch, Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800 (University of California Press, 2003)

    Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (Yale University Press, 1973)

    Charles Capper, Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life 2 vols. (Oxford UP, 1994, 2010)

    Jean Fagan Yellin, Women and Sisters: The Anti-Slavery Feminists in American Culture (Yale University Press, 1989)

    Nancy Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America (UNC Press, 1998)

    Sylvia Hoffert, When Hens Crow: The Women’s Rights Movement in Antebellum America (Indiana University Press, 2002)

  5. I’m pleased to see you included so many of the good more recent works on women’s education on your list!

    For context, you may also benefit from looking at the classic treatment of women’s higher education: Barbara Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).

    On specifically antebellum southern women’s higher education, see Christie Anne Farnham, The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South (New York: New York University Press, 1994).

    I also have an article you might find useful: Andrea L. Turpin, “Ideological Origins of the Women’s College: Religion, Class and Curriculum in the Educational Visions of Catharine Beecher and Mary Lyon,” History of Education Quarterly 50.2 (May 2010): 133-158.

    As more general resources, both History of Education Quarterly and Perspectives on the History of Higher Education have good articles on women’s education in this time period.

  6. Dear Sara,

    Thank you for listing ‘A Colonial Woman’s Bookshelf’ in your bibliography. You may be interested to know that this book is back in print, having been recently released in paperback by Wipf and Stock, a publisher in Eugene, Oregon.

    Cordially,

    Kevin

  7. I am currently working on my comps exams and these sources are super helpful! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this collection of great titles!

  8. I love Zagarri’s Rev. Backlash book, but back when she was writing about Mercy Otis Warren she also published an important article on the gendering of men’s rights vs. women’s rights, “The Rights of Man and Woman in Post-Rev. America,” 1998 William & Mary Q. I’d also recommend her short bio of MOW too, A Woman’s Dilemma

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