Homesteading and Women’s Social Networks

October 23, 2014

Women mobilized and moved to Kansas in an abolitionist effort to prevent the territory from entering the union as a slave state, and set an important precedent in 1861 when they gained the right to vote in school elections. During the Civil War, women took advantage of the Homestead Act (1862) and the Morrill Act (1862) to move into new territories and establish careers.

After the Civil War, Marietta Holley, using the pseudonym “Josiah Allen’s Wife,” emerged internationally as the bestselling American female satirist. Comparable in content and sales to Mark Twain, Holley’s work utilized exaggeration, the vernacular voice, intentional misspelling, and homely truths in her satire. Holley’s aggressive, loquacious, well-traveled, and plain protagonist Samantha Allen appeared two- dozen books published between 1872 and 1914. As a time when women fought for the vote, Holley spotlighted women’s networks in the private sphere. Holley’s character Samantha Allen was a Methodist, and favored prohibition and women’s suffrage. Methodism in the second half of the nineteenth century was in the midst of the Third Great Awakening when an enormous surge in membership occurred. Sect, in Holley’s secular usage, related to how men and women appeared to form distinct spheres within humanity by virtue of their common beliefs and practices. Samantha Allen. Samantha lived in Jonesville, a fictional town representing Middle America during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Holley’s humor comes out in the way the rustic characters interact and are perceived in the world beyond Jonesville. Samantha is generally confronted with challenges that motivate her to journey beyond Jonesville in search of solutions, when Samantha brought her small-town common sense to big city issues, including the controversial ideas and networks of radical suffragists Victoria Woodhull who was a proponent for free love and spiritualism.

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