“Little girls should never feed animals with any new food, without asking advice of those who are experienced.” Quote from Lydia Maria Child, “On Keeping Animals,” in The Little Girl’s Own Book (243); design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

In the coming weeks I am going to explore works by a pioneering American author, Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888), who wrote stories about the importance of treating animals humanely. I will explore her logic within the contexts of changing times. Child began her career during the 1820s, and was well established by the 1860s as an activist on many levels. She was invited to author the preface to Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl on 1861, and wrote pioneering pamphlets supporting the abolition of slavery and Native American rights. The designs will stylistically mimic embroidery designs.

1812 – The New York Tract Society was established.

1814 – The New England Tract Society was established.

1815 – The Hartford Evangelical Tract Society was established.

1817 – The Hartford Evangelical Tract Society, as a result of the Battle for Baltimore in 1814, published Happy Poverty, or, the Story of Poor Ellen. Funds raised from the sale of this tract supported the operations of the Baltimore General Dispensary that aided persons in distress.

1820s and 1830s – Epidemics of small pox, yellow fever, and diphtheria swept the United States.

1821 – The first American high school, established in Boston.

1823 – Clement Clark Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” changes perceptions of Christmas from a German holiday to a gift-giving occasion in the United States.

1825 – The American Tract Society was established.

1826 – German educator Friedrich Fröbel’s The Education of Man, encourages parents to install mobiles in cradles to insure “occupation for the senses and the mind” to foster early child development.

1826-1834 – Child established the Juvenile Miscellany as the first American children’s magazine. Child had to give up editorial control because her reform work with the abolition movement, and her liberal views on Native Americans became too controversial.

1827 – Peter Parley’s Tales of America by Samuel Goodrich (1793-1860) is published. Goodrich created his pseudonym from Hannah More’s tract called “Parley the Porter,” and his innovative benevolent narrator revolutionized the didactic and historic narrative style for children’s literature.

1829 – Child’s The Frugal Housewife published.

1830s – Jacob Abbott (1803-1879), a Congregational minister, begins his “Rollo” series of instructional books and William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) begins his series of “Eclectic Readers.” Both authors shape American consciousness with their packaging or literature that teaches morality.

1830 – Child established and edited M. of Lowell gets her story “Blind Susan, or, The Affectionate Family” published in Juvenile Miscellany. This story graphically describes medical treatments for vision loss resulting from scarlet fever.

1831 – Child’s Mother’s Book is published. It is an early American prescriptive book for rearing children and contains a story about a young mother that is abusive to a cat.

1833 – Girl’s Own Book is published

1832 – Jacob Abbott’s The Young Christian, or, A Familiar Illustration of Principles of Christian Duties is published.

1838 – The American Sunday-School Union publishes their Union Spelling Book.

1845 – Child’s most remembered poem, “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day” is published. It also appears in her Flowers for Children. II. For children from four to six years old. (New York: C.S. Francis & Co., 1845). Flowers for Children was published between 1844 and 1846.

1850 – Child’s translation of the German legend Rose Marian and the Flower Fairies is published. It is a transcendental romance about the death of an orphan.

1851-1852 – Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published in serial form, initially a family story, it was quickly rewritten for children, and like Pilgrim’s Progress was published in “words of one syllable” to be used as a primer.

1853 – Child’s biography of Isaac Tatem Hopper (1771-1852), an American Quaker abolitionist is published. Child devotes a section about his youth utilizing his relationships with animals to show how his consciousness is expanded.

1855 – At the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y., some women wear bloomers to draw attention to artificial distinctions created by restrictive clothing that limit daily physical activities for women.

1861-1865 – The American Civil War. The Little Pilgrim, a Northern Christian magazine for children is published.

1863 – Louisa May Alcott writes Hospital Sketches based upon her experiences as an Army nurse during the Civil War that leads to reform in military hospitals. This success paves the way for her to get Little Women published.

1865 – The United States establishes Christmas as a national holiday. With this shift, Americans begin the practice of exchanging handmade or inexpensive toys and gifts among a wide circle of acquaintances and charities.

1866 – The American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in New York City in 1866

1867 – Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were established in Buffalo, New York, Pennsylvania, and Montgomery, Ohio.

1867 – Horatio Alger Jr. gets Ragged Dick published.

1868 – “An Act for the more effectual prevention of cruelty to animals,” (AB 421) was introduced to the California Legislature on March 28, 1868, and approved. California Governor Haight signed the Act into law on March 30, 1868, and it took effect on June 1, 1868. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals was the sixth humane society to be formed in the United States and the first west of the Mississippi River after Massachusetts.

1870 – “Pansy” (Isabella MacDonald Alden, 1841-1930) publishes her most popular didactic novel for children called Esther Ried. Late in life she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area

1872 – Susan Coolidge (pseudonym for Sarah Chauncy Woolsey) published What Katy Did that became the first popular American children’s novel featuring a character with a spinal cord injury. The American Public Health Association is founded.

1873 – Mary Mapes Dodge becomes the editor of St. Nicholas magazine.

1874 – The Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is established in New York.

1883 – Kate Douglas Wiggin writes the Story of Patsy to raise funds and awareness for the Silver Street Kindergarten in a working-class San Francisco neighborhood.


The Weathercock was having a rough day… design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Weathercock Card 

“Restless life! Restless life!” moaned the Weathercock on the church tower by the seas as he felt the wind sway his direction suddenly. He creaked with dismay, “restless, toiling life, and everybody complaining of one all the time…”

An old woman hobbling towards the church lamenting: “There goes that tiresome weathercock pointing east… now I know why my rheumatism has returned!”

Then a farmer warned the old gravedigger: “Watch out Tomkins! If that rascally weathercock is to be trusted, the wind’s going to bring us rain.”

The steadfast weathercock was horrified that he was always to blame for the weather, and muttered to himself: “Am I to blame? Did I choose my lot? Do you think I would swing every which way if I had a choice?”


Gatty’s motto for this story: “They also serve who only stand and wait,” is from Milton, 1673 Poems, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

From below, the sundial grumbled under his breath: “Oh, how he chatters away up there… he almost makes me smile.” Reflecting upon his day, “Not a ray of sunshine has fallen upon me today. I wonder what Ol’ Weathercock finds to interesting to talk about. His life is so active, no doubt. Oh, what I would not give to be like him.”

The weathercock looked down at his longtime companion the sundial with envy: “Ah, that’s the life!”

Dial heard his name whispered in the wind: Hello up there! Did you call? Is there anything fresh astir? I get so tired of the long dark useless hours. So come on now, what have you been talking about?”

“Nothing profitable,” replied the weathercock. “I am just grumpy.”

“But why?” Asked the dial. “Your life is so active and bright.”

Weathercock thought Dial was mocking him. “Look at me! Swinging with every peevish blast that crosses the sky. Turn here, turn there, turn everywhere… never a moment’s rest.”

The companions fell silent as humans started passing with their daily routines… pausing a moment to examine the sundial or the weathercock to get a sense of what was coming.

A sailor lingered near the dial and read its weathered motto: “Watch, for ye know not the hour.” He just hankered for a long afternoon to relax, and mentioned this to the gravedigger in passing. Tomkins responded: “You’ll be cured of the wish for idle afternoons when they are forced upon you… wait until you are old like me and then you will understand.” With good-natured goodbyes, the two parted ways leaving the churchyard empty of its living guests.

The sailor went home and warned his sons to keep a lookout for there have been signs of a strong gale arriving and with the high tide, there could be dangerous or even deadly conditions.

Meanwhile, the sundial observed, “Just as I thought, everything is wrong because everybody is so dissatisfied.

Soon the farmer’s wife saw the tracts of white foam, thick like snow fields, on the ocean, followed the breakers as they crashed upon the shore like claps of thunder. That night, a mighty storm – a hurricane – came and stalled over the coastal hamlet causing great fear, but the weathercock and the sundial stayed the course.

The weather eventually cleared and the sun shined brightly over the village and the sea with the brilliancy of spring. Because the villagers recognized the signs and prepared, nobody was hurt and damage was minimal, indeed, the dial and the weathercock were buffeted to the point of shining like new. Villagers look at them renewed gratitude, thinking: “What a mercy!”

Dial heard this and asked his friend: “Are you silent, Weathercock?”

“I was just thinking,” he replied. “I have a new sense of my own responsibility. I have the sensation that everything is useful in its own place and at all times, though humans may not always figure that out.”

The sundial beamed, “that was my impression as well.”


Source: Margaret Gatty (1809–1873) wrote about marine biology and was prolific children’s book author and editor who mentored her daughter Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885) in her writing career. While Gatty’s tales were targeted for juvenile audiences, she hoped that they would influence the minds of adults as well. This story is from her Parables from Nature.







Rosamond’s Choice

January 18, 2018

purple jar a

Design of the purple jar, inspired by consumer parable by Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Long ago, Rosamond, a little girl about seven years old, was walking with her mother. They passed many shops and she saw a great variety of things in the windows that were unfamiliar to her. Rosamond wanted to stop and look at them but the streets were crowded and she was afraid to let go of her mother’s hand.

As they passed a toy shop, she looked up at her mother and said, “How happy I would be if I had all of these pretty things.”

What, Rosamond… all!” Her mother exclaimed: “Do you wish them all?”

“Yes, all.”

Soon they arrived at a milliner’s shop that had windows decorated with ribbons, lace, and festoons of artificial flowers.

“Mommy, what beautiful roses! Won’t you buy some of them?”

“No, my dear.”


“Because I don’t want them, my dear.”

Next, they passed a jewelry shop that caught Rosamond’s eye. There were a great many baubles arranged in drawers behind the glass.

“Mommy, will you buy some of these?”

“Which one?”

“Which? I don’t know: any of them will do; they are all pretty.”

Yes, they are all pretty, but of what use would they be to me?”

“Use! Oh I’m sure you could find a use for them if only you would buy them first.”

“But I would rather find out the use first.” Her mother said.

“Well, then Mommy, there are buckles; you know buckles are useful things.”

I have a pair of buckles and I don’t need another. Her mother said and then walked on leaving Rosamond upset that her mother did not want anything.

Soon they passed an apothecary store that had some very interesting colorful things in the window that Rosamond had never seen before, but she did not know what the store was selling. “Oh Mommy, look at that!’ She cried, “Look, look! — blue, green, red, yellow, and purple!” What beautiful things? Won’t you buy some of these these?”

“What use would they be to me, Rosamond?

Rosamond pointed at a purple jar and said, “You might put flowers in them and they would look so pretty. I wish I had one of them.”

Her mother looked at her sternly. “You have a flower pot and that is not a flower pot.”

“But I could use it as a flower pot.”

“Perhaps if you examined it closer, you might be disappointed.”

“No, I am sure I want it.” Rosamond countered, “Perhaps you have no money.”

“Yes, I have money.”

“Mommy,” she said excitedly. “If I had money, I would buy roses, and boxes, and jewelry, and purple flower pots, and everything.”

Rosamond was obliged to pause in the middle her speech. “Oh, Mommy! Can we stop, I have a stone in my shoe and it is hurting me.”

“How come there is a stone in your shoe?”

violet shoe

Rosamond pointed at a big hole in her shoe. “My shoes are quite worn out, can you get me another pair?” Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2017.

Her mother looked closer. “Rosie, I don’t have enough money to buy shoes, and flower pots, and buckles, and boxes, and everything.

This was not what Rosamond wanted to hear, especially since her foot was starting to really hurt, obliging her to hop every other step, so that she could think of nothing else. Soon her mother brought her to a shoe store, and they entered it. The shoe store was full so the two had to wait for assistance. Rosamond was not very interested in the shoes because they appeared to be very drab and the store smelled of leather. Rosamond looked around and spotted a small pair of shoes: “These will do, they will just fit me find, I’m sure.”

Her mother went up to the shoes and observed: “Perhaps, but you cannot be sure until you have tried them on…” Adding, “Any more than you can be quite sure of that you would want the purple vase, until you have examined it more closely.”

Rosamond, a bit contrary today, quipped: “Why, I don’t know about the shoes, but I am quite sure that I would want the purple jar.”

Her mother saw the opportunity for a teaching moment, responded: “Well, dear, which would you rather have: that jar or a pair of shoes?”

“Mommy, can I have both?”

“No, not both.”

“Then I would like the jar.”

“Okay, but I will not give you another pair of shoes this month. Are you sure?”

With that, Rosamond paused. A month was a long time for a seven-year-old girl. She needed the shoes, yet the purple jar beckoned her. Her shoes were not that bad, they could be worn a little longer. “I can make the shoes last until the end of the month, don’t you think?”

Oh, my dear, I want you to think for yourself.” Her mother went off to inspect some shoes for her own needs, leaving Rosamond to ponder her options.

When she returned, “Well, Rosie, what have you decided?”

“I choose the flower pot… it will make me happy.”

Her mother paused, and then said, “Very well, you shall have it. Clasp your shoe and come home.” They stopped at the apothecary shop and requested that the jar be delivered, and continued on. The walk home was long as Rosamond was obliged to stop many times to remove stones from her shoe, and soon was limping with pain. However, her thoughts of the purple jar prevailed and she defended her choice again and again.

Once they arrived home, Rosamond immediately went into the garden to look for some flowers for the jar, anticipating its arrival. Hours passed before the jar was delivered, and when it came, she asked, “May I have it now?”

“Yes, my dear; it is yours.”

Rosamond, in her excitement, dropped the flowers onto the carpet and seized the purple flower pot. She lifted the top: “Oh Mommy! There is something dark in it that smell awful. What is it? I didn’t want this dark stuff!”

“Nor do I, my dear.”

“What should I do with it?”

“I don’t know.”

“But it is no use to me!”

“That, I can’t help!”

“I will have to pour it out and fill the jar with water for the flowers.”

“As you wish.”

purple jar b

Rosamond proceeded to empty the purple vase into the sink only to discover that when the vase was empty, it was no longer a purple vase. It was just plain white glass that appeared to be the beautiful color from the liquor with which it had been filled. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Rosamond burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, my dear?” Her mother asked, somewhat mockingly. “It will be of as much use to you now as ever for a flower pot.”

“But it is not as pretty.”

“Didn’t I tell you to examine it more closely?”

To Rosamond’s chagrin, she was in no position to negotiate: “If I give you the flower pot will you get me the shoes, after all?”

“No Rosie, you have dumped its contents down the sink, the shop will not accept it as a return now. The best thing you can do now is to bear your disappointment with good humor.”

It was a long month, indeed.


Source: This story was based upon Maria Edgeworth’s parable called the “Purple Jar” (1796).

Purple Jar notecard







“Flying Fish,” inspired by a circular fish motif from a medieval manuscript, was designed by Meredith Eliassen, 2016. TO PURCHASE NOTECARD

The flying fish originally had no wings, but having an ambitious and discontented nature, she repined at always being confined to the waters and hoped to soar in the air.

“If I could only fly like the birds!” She thought, I should not only see more of nature’s beauty, but I should be able to escape from those fish that are continually pursuing me that make me so miserable.”

The little fish petitioned Jupiter for a pair of wings and immediately felt her fins expand. They grew to be the length oh her body and were so strong. That she soon took on an air of disdain that her former companions did not appreciate, and soon felt herself exposed to new dangers. When flying in the air, she was first pursued by a tropical bird and then by an albatross. Distraught, she returned to the ocean, so fatigued by her flight, that she was less able to escape the larger fish.

Finding herself even more unhappy than she had been before, she returned to Jupiter and begged him to return to her original state.

Jupiter responded: When I granted you your wings, I knew they would prove to be a curse, but your proud and restless disposition deserved this disappointment. Therefore, what you begged as a favor, keep as a punishment!”


Source: John Aikin (1747-1822) and Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825), Evenings at home, or, The juvenile budget opened (New-York : Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff-Street, 1839.) Barbauld was unable to publish because of her political stances, and collaborated with her brother to get this book published.

Emma, and the Female Choice

September 29, 2014

Emma was published in late-1815, and dedicated, “To His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent,” who would later be crowned King George IV. As in fairy tales, in Austen novels men are always active (they hold virtually all agency) while single women are expected to be passive (acted upon), and once women marry they retire to domesticity in order to produce a male heir. When a woman weds and steps into the role of wife, and she is the agent for intergenerational money and property transfers. Austen’s character Emma is free in her conversations; she appears to be “handsome, clever, and rich (Austen 2011: 3).” Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) anonymously reviewed Emma in the Quarterly Review (October 1815): The faults of these works arise from the minute detail which the author’s plane comprehends. Characters of folly or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Mrs. Bates, are ridiculous when first presented but if too often brought forward, or too long dwelt on, the prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction as in real society (Austen-Leigh 2008: 107-8).”

Carey was the only American firm to publish an Austen novel during her lifetime and that novel was Emma published in 1816. In a sense, protagonist Emma initiates an egalitarian experiment, but she assumes erroneously that her society’s conversation does not apply to her. This theme would be of great interest to American readers (male and female) as a cautionary tale. To publish a novel featuring a British female character of independent means in America at a time when poverty was a visible threat presented an interesting dichotomy.

The female choice in the United States remained that of submission or alienation as described in The Coquette. Families did not have resources to support self-indulgent women – a taste for dissipation could draw a woman’s attention from domestic production including childbearing and free domestic labor. With two wars occurring within a generation, women experienced periods of independence only when they filled male roles during wartime. When the wars ended, men returned home expecting their patriarchic dominance to resume, and women were systematically relegated to submissive roles.

Like Eliza, Emma does not see the necessity of marriage – she does not recognize that in England marriage is connected to inheritance, land distribution, and economic stability. Emma devotes her time to assisting friends to find upward mobility within marriage, and all the while Emma remains clueless. Emma is capable of voicing adulation as a means to manipulate friends to pursue certain paths, and at one point Mr. Knightly calls her on this point, “You will puff her up with such ideas of her own beauty, and of what she has claims to, that, in a little while, nobody within her reach will be good enough for her. Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief (Austen 2011: 61).”

An American essay entitled “Address to Young Misses – By a Lady,” presented a popular emphasis found in contemporary literature that asserted constancy of mind (as opposed to the empty benefits of vanity) created moral strength that does not decay, but rather, increases with use and experience. The author declared, “I listened to the voice of adulation; and her bewitching blandishments allured me to destruction (Boston 1808: n.p.).”

Since Emma’s fickle father Mr. Woodhouse is very rich, until Emma marries a man of good moral character, her future remains very uncertain. Mr. Knightly personifies the model husband for any young woman: he holds a mature and balanced view of the world and has the moral courage to correct the wayward Emma. At one point he states, “I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years experience and by not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child (Austen 2011: 96).” Emma does not match his sensibility of industry, “She will never submit to anything requiring industry and patience and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding… Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family (Austen 2011: 34).” Emma in England, like Eliza in the United States, does not adhere to societal expectations – she needs to marry and produce a highborn heir. Emma is found “to be doing more than she wished, and less than she ought (Austen 2011: 160)!”


Austen, Jane. Emma. New York: HarperPerennial Classics, 2011.

Austen-Leigh, James Edward, and Katherine Sutherland. A Memoir of Jane Austen and other Family Recollections. Oxford University: Oxford University Press, 2008.

The Boston Primer being an improvement of the New England primer: Containing among many other things suitable for young Children, the Catechism, with a variety of instructive lessons and hymns, suited to the capabilities of children and designed to assist them in learning to read and write. Boston: Printed and sold by Manning and Loring, 1808.

Jane Austen drafted Sense and Sensibility as an epistolary novel in about 1795 and Pride and Prejudice was drafted as an epistolary novel called First Impressions between 1796 and 1797. Austen’s novels chronicled the challenges of British middle- upper class women navigating through a particular conversation – American viewpoints were not part of her consciousness. Women in the United States also faced tumultuous economic and social climates but received inculcation to be productive. American playwright Royall Tyler (1757-1826) lamented on the impact of national mourning on Columbia’s collective consciousness and the impact of various captivity narratives on American literature, which he described as “some dreary somebody’s day of Doom (Bradsher 1912: 32).”

A British embargo on American goods in 1809 created shortages of money and book sales declined (Leary, 1984, 142). American intellectuals were disturbed by the notion that the United States remained immature – lacking a national character. While the United States had won economic independence, it remained culturally dependent on England and the output of the American press consisted of reprints of British authors (Bradsher 1912: 29).” Americans continued to read British books, order British products, and emulate English models of metropolitan behavior. The development of a distinct American literature “was retarded for a half a century merely by the lack of a medium through which it might express itself.” The War of 1812 coincided with the War of the Sixth and diverted personnel and resources from England’s battles in France. Americans who fought in the War of 1812 considered it to be America’s second war for independence. Another period of economic depression followed the War of 1812, which continued into the early-1820s. This barren period in American literature came as one generation of literary and intellectual giants was dying out, “and a new one which forms the pride of American literature was just coming into existence (Bradsher 1912: 65).”

Carey combated these trends by publishing didactic literature. Sunday schools books written at this time revealed that working-class labor and poverty were part of a trend towards secularization. But the issues were far more complex. Sunday-school literature was first introduced to British children during the 1790s and became the predominant genre of literature for the newly literate adults. Hannah More established a system for distributing chapbooks with her Cheap Repository Tracts between 1795 and 1798. Parish workers distributed tracts designed to teach virtuous conduct and the evils of intemperance, blind ambition, and vice. These tracts written in a lively and entertaining style for young readers were brought home and used to teach older family members to read. In America, the New York Tract Society was established in 1812; the New England Tract Society was established in 1814; and the Hartford Evangelical Tract Society was established subsequent to the Battle for Baltimore in 1815.

Critics could speculate that Austen’s stories were so timeless due to her lofty indifference to current events in her treatments; one would hardly know that the industrial revolution was underway with the steam engine transforming manufacturing or that the abolitionist movement culminated with reforms in England in 1808 from reading her books. Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811 and wartime England was the backdrop for Pride and Prejudice published in 1813 (Austen 2003: 78). Austen thought the latter was not half “so entertaining” as Sense and Sensibility; they both promoted the notion of re-searching or rereading events to discover hidden meanings. Austen devoted considerable time in Pride and Prejudice for Elizabeth Bennett to reread letters from her sister Jane and Darcy to see elements of character beyond the surface or to correct “first impressions.” Elizabeth Bennett’s ability to re-peruse events allowed her to discern facts from her life’s exemplum (Lynch 1998: 129). Austen imbedded an element of realism into Mansfield Park (1814) where she developed a male character Edmund Bertram who succeeded with moral courage rather than just inheritance (Austen 2003: 87). Mansfield Park presented the “estate” including slaves in Antigua symbolizing the whole social and moral inheritance; it challenged the status quo of slavery in American culture, and therefore it would not appealed to Carey as a good prospect when he was trying to cultivate a market in the American South.


Austen, Jane. Jane Austen’s letters. Philadelphia: Pavilion Press, 2003.

Bradsher, Earl L. Mathew Carey, editor, author, and publisher: A Study in American literary Development. New York: Columbia University Press, 1912.

Leary, Lewis. The book-peddling parson: An account of the life and works of Mason Locke Weems, patriot, pitchman, author, and purveyor of morality to the citizenry of the early United States of America. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1984.

Lynch, Deidre. The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of inner Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

British essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) first coined the term “Columbia” to represent the symbolic female personification of the American colony in a 1738 issue of Gentlemen’s Magazine. Johnson defined active as “that which acts, opposed to passive, or that which suffers (Johnson 1785: 1: ACT),” and he defined passive as, “receiving impression from some external agent (Johnson 1785: 2: PAS).”

In traditional fairy tales the male represented the active side of human nature, while the female represented human nature’s passive more receptive side (Meyer 1988: 73). American publishers during the early Republic were especially sensitive to the semantics of active and passive in promoting a strong new America, and American publications promoted feminine virtue as a tool for building nationalism. However, they remained in accord with earlier British essayists Joseph Addison and Richard Steele who warned of the deplorable effects of fashionable education on young women: “From this general folly of parents we owe our present numerous race of coquettes (Lasch 1997: 68 and Tise 1998: 362).” They suggested that raising daughters to be “artful” made them fair game for seducers, when parents should rear daughters to make them morally attractive as marriage partners for upwardly mobile young men.

Pouch with stitching by Constance Eliassen

Pouch with stitching by Constance Eliassen

While Jane Austen was in sync with the contemporary Anglo-American sensibility that young women should not have any exaggerated sense of self-worth, the dependency of her heroines upon reputation was too akin to the sense of dependency experienced by men in colonial America. The memory of economic and cultural dependency on the mother country lingered undermining national confidence. American women craved British literature during the 1790s because it did not mirror tumultuous conditions of contemporary life. American publishers in literary hubs including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Georgetown, and New Haven, drew upon the British female writers to attract new female readers. However, American publishers were slow to cultivate a sophisticated readership.

In England, as well as in the Colonies, an idle “novel reading” woman was seen not only as a burden to her family but also as a risk for becoming immoral. Reading was not a leisure activity for women in the new America. Within communities where there was very little individual privacy, one frivolous woman in a household could create scandal for the family patriarch resulting in hardship to the entire family since patronage more than inheritance influenced credit. Congregational clergyman Reverend Dr. Enos Hitchcock (1745-1803), in his epistolary novel Memoirs of the Bloomgrove Family, composed a series of letters to Martha Washington explaining how European educational systems were not applicable in the United States: “it is now time to become independent in our maxims, principles of education, dress, and manners, and we are in our laws and government (Hitchcock 1790: 15-7).”



Hitchcock, Enos. Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family: In a series of letters to a respectable citizen of Philadelphia. Containing sentiments on a mode of domestic education, suited to the present state of society, government, and manners, in the United States of America, and on the dignity and importance of the female character interspersed with a variety of interesting anecdotes. Boston: Thomas and Andrews, 1790.

Johnson, Samuel. A dictionary of the English language in which the words are deduced from their originals and illustrated in their different significations by examples from the best writers. London: J. F. and C. Rivington, l. Davis, T. Payne and Son, T. Longman, B. Law [and 21 others in London], 1785.

Lasch, Christopher, and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn. Women and the common life: love, marriage, and feminism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Meyer, Rudolf. The Wisdom of Fairy Tales. Edinburgh: Floris, 1988.

Tise, Larry E. The American Counterrevolution: A Retreat from Liberty, 1783-1800. Mechanicsburg, PA.: Stackpole Books, 1988.