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Adam'sRib Anne F. Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics1830-1930, University of Chicago Press. 1970. $5.95. 247 pp. Emily Jane Putnam, The Lady: Studies of Certain Significant Phases of Her History, University of Chicago Press.1969; first published 1910. $5.95. 323 pp. Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement, University of Washington Press. 1969; first published 1923. $10.50. 504 pp. JEAN MATTHEWS Far more than the history of the old world, the history of the new has been overwhelmingly masculine. If the black schoolboy discovers from his texts that History is something made by whites, then the American schoolgirl (and how much more the Canadian girl!) finds that it is something made by men. No Queens, no Empresses, no courtesans, no concubines , no militant saints; no Catherine, no Elizabeth, no Tz'u Hsi, no Madame de Pompadour, no Madame de Stael, no Rani of Jhansi, no Joan of Arc. Even the occasional Presidential mistresses appear to have been domestic little women, quite lacking in political ambition, and Canadian politicians seem to have been more susceptible to drink than to women. One of the more interesting aspects of the present Black revolution is the the attempt to rescue the historical Black man from invisibility and now some historians are trying to do the same thing for the American woman. The title of a recent collection of historical documents on women is significant : The American Woman: Who Was She? An excellent example of this genre, which is at the same time often illuminating on the general history of the period covered, is Anne Firor Scott's The Southern Lady: FromPedestal to Politics 1830-1930. The cult of Woman need not necessarily mean the complete exclusion of women from public life and public record, but the ante-bellum Southern male managed to combine "the manner and phrases of the minnesinger with the practice of the ancient Athenian." 1 The Southern Lady was the crown and pinnacle of that civilization on which she left no overt mark, the central toast at those convivial banquets which she was not allowed to attend. Even more than the rest of the nation, the South was a man's country. THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. II, NO. 2, FALL 1971 That wary admirer of the American woman, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed that whereas for the woman of the French upper classes, marriage meant an emergence into the world from the restrictions of girlhood, for the American woman it was quite the opposite: from the freedom of her father's house she retired into "the home of her husband as if it were a cloister." 2 As Mrs. Scott demonstrates, this was certainly true of the South, where the Southern belle was swallowed up on marriage by the isolated plantation, there to become a sober matron and efficient housewife , supervising her servants, often herself engaging in spinning, weaving and sewing for the household, caring for the sick on the place, and probably bearing and rearing numerous children. Though the term "lady" in the 19th century had not yet lost all sociological significance and become , as at present, merely a euphemism for "woman,'' it had still become sufficiently loose as to cover the women both of the upper and the middle classes. At the same time bourgeois values and notions of propriety extended not only downwards to the respectable working classes but upwards to the aristocracy. One consequence of this was that while the male slaveowner might affect the style and values of an aristocrat, his wife lived a life which was essentially bourgeois. In particular, she was a victim , though a co-operating one, of that middle class cult of the Home which was perhaps the most unchallenged dogma of the 19th century. From her position of semi-purdah in this nursery of civilization and morality, she was to exercise all the influence that was proper to her and enjoy whatever pleasures of the world could filter through to the inner sanctum. The first part of Mrs. Scott's book focuses rather movingly on the realities of plantation life for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 114-124
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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