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Woman Thinking:
Feminism and Transcendentalism in 19th-Century America
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This book explores the ideas and activism of a unique circle of 19th- century female thinkers and activists that included Ednah Dow Cheney, Caroline Dall, Paulina Wright Davis, Margaret Fuller, Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, and others.  Between the 1830s and the 1890s, these women were inspired to apply Transcendentalist concerns about selfhood, education, and vocation to a feminist analysis of women’s status in the 19th century.

 

The book focuses on several key points in which Transcendentalist women were active in the women’s rights movement, from Margaret Fuller’s “Conversations for Women” in the late 1830s and 1840s, to the first national women’s rights convention in 1850, to the proliferation of feminist books, lectures, and newspapers at mid-century, to women as lecturers at the Concord School of Philosophy in the 1870s and 80s. 

 

My goals in this study were to show the larger cultural relevance of Transcendentalism itself, as it intersected with social reform movements such as women’s rights, and to place early feminism within the intellectual history of the era by showing how it was influenced and even propelled by Transcendentalism. 

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Reviews
"Writing against the grain of received knowledge both of Transcendentalism and Feminism, Tiffany Wayne convincingly links these two great movements into a coherent and forceful re-evaluation of both politics and ideology in the nineteenth-century. This is an important contribution that is thoughtful and elegantly written."
—Edith Gelles, author
Portia: The World of Abigail Adams

"This is potentially the most clear-sighted analysis of Transcendentalist gender-essentialism and its constructive uses to date. There is a growing interest in women identified with Transcendentalism beyond Margaret Fuller, as well as in certain aspects of their involvement in the women's rights movement. No one else to date, however, has attempted a narrative of the whole, let alone with this double grounding in feminist and Transcendentalist history and grasp of feminist theory. The argument for post-bellum Transcendentalism is itself an important contribution to collective rethinking about periodization and feminization."
-Phyllis B. Cole
Pennsylvania State University, Delaware County,
author, Mary Moody Emerson and the Origins of Transcendentalism
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