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Jane Grey Swisshelm

An Unconventional Life, 1815-1884

Sylvia D. Hoffert

Publication Year: 2004

Nineteenth-century newspaper editor Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815@-1884) was an unconventionally ambitious woman. While she struggled in private to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, she publicly critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice. As the owner and editor of newspapers in Pittsburgh; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C.; and as one of the founders of the Minnesota Republican Party, Swisshelm negotiated a significant place for herself in the male-dominated world of commerce, journalism, and politics. How she accomplished this feat; what expressive devices she used; what social, economic, and political tensions resulted from her efforts; and how those tensions were resolved are the central questions examined in this biography. Sylvia Hoffert arranges the book topically, rather than chronologically, to include Swisshelm in the broader issues of the day, such as women's involvement in politics and religion, their role in the workplace, and marriage. Rescuing this prominent feminist from obscurity, Hoffert shows how Swisshelm laid the groundwork for the "New Woman" of the turn of the century. As a feminist, abolitionist, journalist, and newspaper editor, Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884) was an unconventionally ambitious woman who publicly critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice. Sylvia Hoffert tells how Swisshelm struggled in private to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and how she succeeded in negotiating a significant place for herself in the male-dominated world of commerce, journalism, and politics. Following a loose chronology, the book focuses on topics such as religion, marriage, property ownership, work, politics, reform, and social class, and shows how these forces impacted Swisshelm's life. In this biography, Hoffert shows how Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884), a feminist, abolitionist, journalist, and newspaper editor, was an unconventionally ambitious woman who publicly critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice. Nineteenth-century newspaper editor Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815–1884) was an unconventionally ambitious woman. While she struggled in private to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, she publicly critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice. As the owner and editor of newspapers in Pittsburgh; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C.; and as one of the founders of the Minnesota Republican Party, Swisshelm negotiated a significant place for herself in the male-dominated world of commerce, journalism, and politics. How she accomplished this feat; what expressive devices she used; what social, economic, and political tensions resulted from her efforts; and how those tensions were resolved are the central questions examined in this biography. Sylvia Hoffert arranges the book topically, rather than chronologically, to include Swisshelm in the broader issues of the day, such as women's involvement in politics and religion, their role in the workplace, and marriage. Rescuing this prominent feminist from obscurity, Hoffert shows how Swisshelm laid the groundwork for the "New Woman" of the turn of the century.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. 6-11

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Prologue

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pp. 1-8

Jane Grey Swisshelm may have been married to a farmer, but she was no ordinary farm wife. Nor did she, like most farm wives, pass through life quietly and in relative obscurity. During the mid–nineteenth century, her name appeared in newspapers across the United States. ...

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CHAPTER ONE: That Olde-Time Religion

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pp. 9-32

I was born on the 6th of December, 1815, in Pittsburg , on the bank of the Monongahela, near its confluence with the Allegheny. My father was Thomas Cannon, and my mother Mary Scott. They were both Scotch-Irish and descended from the Scotch Reformers. On my mother’s side were several men and women who signed the ‘‘Solemn League ...

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CHAPTER TWO: A Marriage Fraught with Conflict

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pp. 33-59

Whenever two are really weary of each other, they are no longer married; and nobody can marry them. . . . It is a base prostitution of the name and object of marriage to bind two to live together contrary to the will of either. Nor can we see how society can possibly be benefitted by an arrangement which compels the semblance of marriage ...

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CHAPTER THREE: The Troublesome Matter of Property

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pp. 61-77

A case was tried in the District Court, commencing on Monday, and concluded yesterday, to decide the liability of Mr. James Swisshelm for the cost of a watch purchased by his wife, Mrs. Jane G. Swisshelm, now editing a newspaper in Minnesota, but well known as the editress of the Saturday Visitor, in this city. The purchase appears to have ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Woman's Work in a Man's World

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pp. 79-102

I went to the Journal office, found Mr. Riddle in his sanctum, and told him the Albatross was dead; the Liberty Party [was] without an organ, and that I was going to start the PITTSBURG SATURDAY VISITER; the first copy must be issued Saturday week, so that abolitionists would not have time to be discouraged, and that I wanted him to print my paper. ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: A Different Sort of Politics

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pp. 103-131

There, in the ladies’ gallery, is a woman who will not flinch under my pencil—or anybody’s. Mrs. Jane G. Swisshelm, of Minnesota, one of the sharpest politicians among American women I think, and, for all that, a good housekeeper I know, for I have eaten her biscuits. She has a very large head, high over firmness and self-esteem, wide at combativeness, massive in the intellectual-moral regions, ...

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CHAPTER SIX: A World in Need of Improvement

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pp. 133-159

‘‘I remember Mrs. Jane Swisshelm well,’’ said Mrs. P. Lorton, of 231 Market Street [in Louisville, Kentucky], to a reporter yesterday. ‘‘I was a young girl when she first came here. It was somewhere about 1840. They rented a house next door to ours on Second street, and Mr. Swisshelm went into some kind of business. As I remember her then, she was a delicate woman, with bright, piercing eyes. She was very nervous, and had a quick, sharp way of ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Respectable but Not Genteel

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pp. 161-189

It is a wintery Sabbath morning in the late 1870s; the Reverend Joseph Hunter, holding forth from his Covenanter pulpit to an intent, albeit half-frozen congregation. Suddenly, a small, grey wisp of a woman shiveringly arises from her pew, well up front, marches determinedly down the aisle and out of the church, hurries across the ...

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Afterword

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pp. 191-197

Jane Grey Swisshelm was one the most widely read and versatile female journalists in mid–nineteenth century America. She was a provocateur, a propagandist, and a polemicist. Her style was distinctive enough to cause comment. One editor described it as ‘‘poetical, piquant, and pithy.’’ Another noted the ‘‘boldness’’ of her ‘‘unsparing hand.’’∞ She was not the only woman at the time to make a place for herself in the world of ...

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Note on Primary Sources

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pp. 199-207

For a historian, the early stages of research are a particularly exciting time, filled with a frenetic kind of activity—reading what has already been written on your topic, visiting archives, and writing letters of inquiry to anyone who might be able to help you locate the sources you need. It is also a period filled with a heightened sense of anticipation and with the feeling that there are no limits to what you can find out about your ...

Notes

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pp. 209-245

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 247-259

I wish to express my thanks to many colleagues and friends, including Anne Butler, Wendy Gamber, Michael Green, Barbara Harris, Nancy Hewitt, Joy Kasson, Roger Lotchin, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Don Mathews, Theda Perdue, Anne Firor Scott, Sarah Shields, Linda Wagner-Martin, Harry Watson, Margaret Wiener, and an anonymous reader for the University of North Carolina Press. Some read and critiqued all or parts of ...

Index

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pp. 249-255


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603612
E-ISBN-10: 1469603616
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807828816
Print-ISBN-10: 0807828815

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 10 illus.
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Swisshelm, Jane Grey Cannon, 1815-1884.
  • Feminists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Women social reformers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Women newspaper editors -- United States -- Biography.
  • Women -- Political activity -- United States -- Biography.
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