restricted access Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South by Jonathan Daniel Wells, and: Writing Reconstruction: Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South by Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle, and: Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory by Barbara McCaskill (review)
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Reviewed by
Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South. By Jonathan Daniel Wells. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. xi + 258 pp. $94.99 cloth/$29.99 paper/$24.00 ebook.
Writing Reconstruction: Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South. By Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. xiv + 428 pp. $45.00 paper/$29.99 ebook.
Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory. By Barbara McCaskill. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015. xiii + 136pp. $54.95 cloth/$22.95 paper/$22.95 ebook.

In a 30 June 1855 article announcing her departure from the editorial chair of the Provincial Freeman, the Toronto-based black newspaper she had founded a year earlier, Mary Ann Shadd Cary directly addressed the “colored women” who read her paper: “[W]e have ‘broken the Editorial ice,’ whether willingly or not, for your class in America; so go to Editing, as many of you as are willing, and able, and as soon as you may, if you think you are ready; and to those who will not, we say, help us when we visit you . . . by subscribing to the paper, paying for it, and getting your neighbors, to do the same” (“Adieu”). Shadd Cary’s insistent call did not go unheeded, but archival gaps and biases, alongside a scholarly hierarchy that continues to privilege the bound book, have made it difficult at times to locate the presence of the women, and especially black women, who made, distributed, and read a variety of print forms in the nineteenth century. Through inventive methodologies and impressive archival efforts, three recent books recover and explore the central role that women, and black women in particular, played in the creation of nineteenth-century [End Page 422] American print culture, and as a result urge us to rethink the relationships between gender, race, and region during that era.

These three books each in some way build upon and develop a robust field of scholarship devoted to recovering the presence and power of black women writers, orators, and editors in the nineteenth century. For instance, Jane Rhodes’s Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (1998) shows the critical importance of Shadd Cary’s work to the development of black activism and the black press before and after the Civil War. Focusing on a range of black women activists and writers rather than a single individual, Carla Peterson’s “Doers of the Word”: African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1830–1880) (1998), Joycelyn Moody’s Sentimental Confessions: Spiritual Narratives of Nineteenth-Century African American Women (2001), and P. Gabrielle Foreman’s Activist Sentiments: Reading Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (2009) similarly underscore the centrality of black women to the black freedom struggle in the nineteenth century. And Elizabeth McHenry’s Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (2002) uncovers how black women came together to create formal institutions through which they could engage with and respond to black and white print cultures. This body of scholarship powerfully illustrates Frances Smith Foster’s pivotal claim that “people of African descent used their print culture to help reinvent themselves as African Americans and to construct African America” and insists upon the importance of black women to that endeavor (715). Moreover, as part of the recovery process, this work consistently locates black women’s writing beyond the confines of the bound book. That nineteenth-century black (and white) women wrote numerous pieces for periodicals should come as little surprise, since, as Jean Marie Lutes argued in a 2010 essay on women and periodicals appearing in this journal, “[p]recisely because writing published in periodicals lacks the prestige and status of the bound book, it is an essential source for scholars who seek insight into writers who—by virtue of their gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, or other factors—have lacked access to the most privileged venues of American letters” (336).

Building upon this body of work, the books under review in this essay explore how women in the nineteenth century produced a variety of printed...


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