Presenter Information

Rebecca WarwickFollow

Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Elizabeth Hubble

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Abstract

During the Revolutionary War the dominant belief, held by men and women alike, was that women did not possess the mental capacity or intelligence for politics. Many perceived that women were strictly domestic beings, and therefore could not participate nor contribute to the inherently political war effort. Nonetheless, a few brave women such as Phillis Wheatley and Judith Sargent Murray insisted on participating in the political dialogue of their new nation through their poetry.

Through the respective lenses of gender and race, Murray and Wheatley used their literary skills and intellectual abilities to engage with the themes of patriotism, freedom and religion within their poetry. Ultimately, they shaped the nation’s broader political dialogue, pushed gender boundaries, and aided in strengthening the foundation and growth of women’s American literary tradition.

Thanks to the rise of the study of women’s history in the 1970s, there is no scarcity of secondary scholarship on politically active women in New England during the Revolutionary War. Although I engage with these broader historical dialogues, for the purpose of this research paper, I primarily focus on primary sources as they pertain to Judith Sargent Murray and Phillis Wheatley, such as their published works, birth and death certificates.

Relative to their politically active and revolutionary peers, Murray and Wheatley stand out as two women who took advantage of the opportunities they received and shared similar achievements in life despite their different backgrounds. Both led extraordinary lives and expanded the arena of possibility for women during the Revolution.

Category

Humanities

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Phillis Wheatley and Judith Sargent Murray: Revolutionary Founders in Women's Political Activism and Women's American Literary Tradition

During the Revolutionary War the dominant belief, held by men and women alike, was that women did not possess the mental capacity or intelligence for politics. Many perceived that women were strictly domestic beings, and therefore could not participate nor contribute to the inherently political war effort. Nonetheless, a few brave women such as Phillis Wheatley and Judith Sargent Murray insisted on participating in the political dialogue of their new nation through their poetry.

Through the respective lenses of gender and race, Murray and Wheatley used their literary skills and intellectual abilities to engage with the themes of patriotism, freedom and religion within their poetry. Ultimately, they shaped the nation’s broader political dialogue, pushed gender boundaries, and aided in strengthening the foundation and growth of women’s American literary tradition.

Thanks to the rise of the study of women’s history in the 1970s, there is no scarcity of secondary scholarship on politically active women in New England during the Revolutionary War. Although I engage with these broader historical dialogues, for the purpose of this research paper, I primarily focus on primary sources as they pertain to Judith Sargent Murray and Phillis Wheatley, such as their published works, birth and death certificates.

Relative to their politically active and revolutionary peers, Murray and Wheatley stand out as two women who took advantage of the opportunities they received and shared similar achievements in life despite their different backgrounds. Both led extraordinary lives and expanded the arena of possibility for women during the Revolution.