Along with a handful of other nineteenth-century American women writers, Lydia Sigourney figured prominently in the advocacy of kindness to animals, writing about animals in prose works like Letters to Mothers (1838) and poems published in multiple print venues. Following John Locke, these writers argued that the proper treatment of and engagement with animals was not only evidence of moral and spiritual superiority, but also preparation for adult life. While Sigourney played an important role in the promotion of such rhetoric, she clearly also recognized its limitations. In this article, I look at Sigourney's poems about nuisance creatures—mice and flies, in particular—to argue that her positioning of the nonhuman absolute other in contact with the middle-class domestic woman highlights the unreasonable and often impossible demands placed upon women by the rhetoric of kindness to animals. Sigourney's centering and decentering of the human in these poems prompts a rethinking of how and why animals figure into nineteenth-century American culture.


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pp. 93-116
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