A Variety of Antebellum Women’s Writings (Books, Articles, and primary sources)

Virginia R. Bensen

Our three featured women feminist Antebellum writers provide insight from the upper-middle-class white women of the New York and New England areas.  As you probably observed, these women were not working women but tried to adhere to the domestic realm.  Each of these three women also supported various types of reform work.  Each also described the conflicts between providing a “proper” home and spending time working on their own societal causes.  This article will now share with you some sources of other Antebellum women writings.  Most of these women portray women who were not from North East of the United States during Antebellum. Click on the source title and that will re-direct you to the source itself.

 Bethany Veney

Veney was one of the few American women slaves to personally write a narrative about her experiences as a slave women in Luray, Virginia.  She was owned by three masters over her life.  All three went into debt and was forced by the court system to sell their slaves at auction.  With her few two masters, she was separated from her children. When Bethany Veney learned about her third master’s upcoming sale of both herself and her son, she arranged to be purchased prior to the auction by a wealthy northern investor who had befriended her.  She then moved to Boston, Massachusettes, and became a paid housemaid that northerner. After the Civil War, she wrote her narrative.

Take the time to read this, it is extremely interesting and provides a new perspective on slavery in western part of Virginia during Antebellum.

Bethany Veney, The Narrative of Bethany Veney: A Slave Woman (Boston, Press of George H. Ellis, 1889), Documenting the American South 

Article about Missouri Women farm women     

This article provides a great description of Missouri farm women, their daily life, and the types of work they did in addition to typical housekeeping.  Be sure to read the author’s sources, these provide additional reading material.

Jeff Bremer,“Mothers of Commerce: Antebellum Missouri women and the Family Farm,”Iowa State University Digital Depository. 

Article about women traveling west in the 1800s

This article provides a discussion whether or not true womanhood was practiced during women’s westward journeys across North America during the 1800s.  It provides a great discussion about “true womanhood,” and through many of the women’s diaries discusses their views, and perspective of their roles.  It is an extremely interesting read, and again, check out the author’s sources for further reading.

Annette Bennington McElhiney, “Diaries of Pioneer Women – Truths Confessed or society’s Expectations Met?” 

Master’s Thesis provides a excerpts from a numerous women’s diaries and letters while on the Oregon Trail crossing.

This thesis provides excerpts as well as explanations about women crossing the North American continent on the Oregon trail.  This is really interesting, because the author provides direct quotes of numerous diaries and letters, as well as newspaper and magazine articles about women’s capability to travel west.

Barbara Burgess, Master’s Thesis, “Journals, Diaries, and Letters Written by Women on the Oregon Trail, 1836 – 1865”

Book by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson showing multiple perspectives of Native Americans, the Hispanic Women as well as other cultural perspectives about Women settling the West.

Book written by two well-known western American history scholars provides examining women of multiple backgrounds who helped settle western America.  Much of the book is available through Google books.  Excellent read.

Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson, eds., The Women’s West, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

Book about plantation mistress, Martha Turnbull’s diary

Turnbull’s diary writes about antebellum through post-Civil War era experiences on a Southern plantation. Although her diary focuses on her efforts to build her plantation gardens, she also reflects the life of a plantation mistress. This diary spans the years of 1836 – 1895. 

Most of this book is available on line through googlebooks.com.

Martha Tumbull, The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull, Mistress of Rosedown Plantation, edited by Suzanne Turner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2012).

These are just a few examples, and it is far from inclusive.  If you wish to share other stories or diaries of other antebellum women, we would love to hear from you.  Please add your suggestions in the comments section below, or contact me directly if you would like to write a post for this E-Zine regarding antebellum women’s writings and diaries.  You will find all of the particulars in the footer menu, Submission Guidelines.

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