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Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830-1865

Deborah C. De Rosa

Publication Year: 2003

Deborah C. De Rosa examines the multifaceted nature of domestic abolitionism, a discourse that nineteenth-century women created to voice their political sentiments when cultural imperatives demanded their silence. For nineteenth-century women struggling to find an abolitionist voice while maintaining the codes of gender and respectability, writing children’s literature was an acceptable strategy to counteract the opposition. By seizing the opportunity to write abolitionist juvenile literature, De Rosa argues, domestic abolitionists were able to enter the public arena while simultaneously maintaining their identities as exemplary mother-educators and preserving their claims to “femininity.” Using close textual analyses of archival materials, De Rosa examines the convergence of discourses about slavery, gender, and children in juvenile literature from 1830 to 1865, filling an important gap in our understanding of women’s literary productions about race and gender, as well as our understanding of nineteenth-century American literature more generally.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

First and foremost, I want to thank Joy Kasson for her guidance during the course of this project and for her thoughtful comments. I am grateful to Trudier Harris, who even during her long absence, remained a constant inspiration to my scholarship and my teaching. Many thanks to Philip Gura whose insight especially helped shape an amorphous chapter on biography and...


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p. xiii

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pp. 1-12

This study analyzes the convergence of discourses about women, children, and slavery in juvenile literature between 1830 and 1860. Historical research suggests that nineteenth-century men and women lived under implicit and explicit codes about separate spheres, saw the emergence of the cult of childhood, and faced the dilemma of slavery. However, neither literary critics...

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1. “Some twelve or fifteen others . . . the committee would recommend for publication”: Domestic Abolitionists and Their Publishers

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pp. 13-37

In 1833, Lydia Maria Child received such harsh condemnation for An Appeal in Favor of That Class of American Called Africans that “[she] not only suffered financial ruin and social ostracism, but was also forced to end her Juvenile Miscellany” (Roberts 354; see also Bardes and Gossett 41). In 1850, Sarah Jane Clarke Lippincott (alias, Grace Greenwood) lost her job as editorial associate at...

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2. “Now, Caesar, say no more today; Your story makes me cry”: Sentimentalized Victims and Abolitionist Tears

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pp. 39-77

In her July 14, 1835, letter to the Lowell Female Anti-Slavery Society, Melissa Ammidon, of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, exposes abolitionist women’s attempt to elicit from children a private, sentimental response to a national problem. Ammidon informs female antislavery societies (FASS) from New York to Ohio of a commonplace, personal item imbued with...

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3. Seditious Histories: The Abolitionist Mother-Historian

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pp. 79-106

In March 1845, Godey’s Lady’s Book published “Maternal Instruction” (Figure 3), an engraving that encapsulated the nineteenth century’s conviction in a mother’s responsibility for her children’s education. Patricia Okker suggests that this engraving limits the woman to the maternal role and to a small, domestic space, but it also...

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4. “We boys [and girls] had better see what we can do, for it is too wicked”: The Juvenile Abolitionists

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pp. 107-147

What can I do to end slavery? represents a fundamental question that abolitionists repeatedly asked themselves and Americans. Women did not hesitate to pose this question in female antislavery societies and then in print,1 and some women encouraged children to ask the same question. Interestingly, by...


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pp. 149-167

Works Cited

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pp. 169-187


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pp. 189-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486306
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458259
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458253

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 5 figures
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 56408572
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830-1865

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Johnson, Crockett, -- 1906-1975.
  • Slavery in literature.
  • Children -- Books and reading -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Antislavery movements in literature.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
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