Literary historian and scholar Elaine Showalter has recently published a sweeping and insightful survey of American women writers, A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (Knopf). She is the first person to attempt this all-encompassing project.
Why do you think that no one before you has attempted to write a literary history of American women writers?
There really wasn’t a sense until the late 1970s or even the 1980s that women writers actually had a history and that it was something worth investigating…
George Eliot wrote that ‘the happiest women…have no history’; such a philosophy embodies that for women in the ancient world there is a great lack of communication from women themselves. So to what extent is the historian thwarted by this lack of communication?
One of the biggest problems facing the historian of women in the ancient world is that there are very few sources that are written by women themselves; there is a general lack of communication. So is it possible to trace their history even without their own sources? Gould describes women in the ancient world as a muted group, made inarticulate by the lack of a language in which to communicate their particular sense of society and its relationship to the totality of experience. While other academics believe that the history of women can be interpreted through numerous sources contributed by males, such as tragedies and comedies, this…
On March 3, 1913, 5,000 women marched up Pennsylvania Avenue demanding the right to vote. Their “national procession,” staged the day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration, was the first civil rights parade to use the nation’s capital as a backdrop, underscoring the national importance of their cause and women’s identity as American citizens. The event brought women from around the country to Washington in a show of strength and determination to obtain the ballot. The extravagant parade–and the near riot that almost destroyed it–kept woman suffrage in the newspapers for weeks. This 30-foot long showcase display recreates the mood of the parade and illustrates its impact using costumes worn by participants along with banners, sashes, postcards, letters and photographs.
If you cannot make it to Washington D.C. and want to look at some of the high resolution images, be sure to check out the exhibit online.