Writing for Immortality studies the lives and works of four prominent members of the first generation of American women who strived for recognition as serious literary artists: Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Constance Fenimore Woolson. Combining literary criticism and cultural history, Anne E. Boyd examines how these authors negotiated the masculine connotation of “artist,” imagining a space for themselves in the literary pantheon. Redrawing the boundaries between male and female literary spheres, and between American and British literary traditions, Boyd shows how these writers rejected the didacticism of the previous generation of women writers and instead drew their inspiration from the most prominent “literary” writers of their day: Emerson, James, Barrett Browning, and Eliot.

Placing the works and experiences of Alcott, Phelps, Stoddard, and Woolson within contemporary discussions about “genius” and the “American artist,” Boyd reaches a sobering conclusion. Although these women were encouraged by the democratic ideals implicit in such concepts, they were equally discouraged by lingering prejudices about their applicability to women.

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“Radically expands the literary world of nineteenth-century American women, considering them in conversation with European women writers as well as male writers in Europe and America.”

“A comprehensively researched and impressively detailed study.”
“A highly satisfying analysis of the contexts within which women’s literary ambitions shifted and the sensibilities of the male literary elite were forcefully challenged.”
“Well written and appealingly produced, it is a thoughtful contribution to the field of late-nineteenth-century American literature and to the women, men, and above all institutions that produced it.”
“This book is an innovative and carefully-researched analysis of the trajectory of female authorship in the nineteenth-century United States. Focusing on four significant but undervalued writers, Anne Boyd draws on and then advances the ‘separate spheres’ approach to women’s literary history during this period, challenging much of the received wisdom about this subject. Boyd’s study of the careers, cultural contexts, and aspirations of Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Constance Fenimore Woolson is likely to stand as a solid historicist achievement for some time to come.”


“An important addition to our library of nineteenth-century American women’s writing, illuminating in their own voices their literary ambitions, frustrations, and triumphs.”

” Wielding the Pen is a significant contribution to the current rethinking of nineteenth-century women’s writings as a field.”

Wielding the Pen: Writings on Authorship by American Women of the Nineteenth Century presents a wide spectrum of nineteenth-century American women’s writings on the themes of authorship and creativity. These works reflect the fears, desires, and motivations of female authors, as well as the opportunities and obstacles they encountered as professional writers.

Wielding the Pen includes representative samples from a diverse range of writers. These writings, some of which are reprinted here for the first time, challenge prevailing notions about women and authorship in the nineteenth century. Here are the voices of women writers speaking about the hardships and rewards of authorship, responding to male critics, and encouraging and warning young, aspiring writers who would join them in the ranks of professional writing.

Boyd’s introduction places the views of female writers on authorship into historical perspective, and brief biographical and critical sketches of each author and their work are also included. The texts are presented chronologically and are indexed by author, genre, theme, and region.

This anthology of primary materials―the words of American women writers on the act of authorship and their participation in the literary cultures of the nineteenth century― offers revealing insight into Hawthorne’s “damned mob of scribbling women.”

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