Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-67wsf Total loading time: 0.569 Render date: 2022-05-17T01:26:06.609Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

23 - Women Poets, Child Readers

from PART III - 1865–1900, EXPERIMENT AND EXPANSION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2017

Angela Sorby
Affiliation:
Marquette University
Jennifer Putzi
Affiliation:
College of William and Mary, Virginia
Alexandra Socarides
Affiliation:
University of Missouri, Columbia
Get access

Summary

Almost all nineteenth-century women poets – from Lucretia Davidson to Emily Dickinson, from Frances E. W. Harper to Charlotte Perkins Gilman – wrote at least some verses for children. Why? In part, there were cultural pressures at work: women faced obstacles in most professional fields, but writing for children was viewed as acceptable and even natural. As Sarah Josepha Hale put it, “the department of Juvenile literature is peculiarly appropriate to female writers” who wish to be “useful to others” rather than “shining themselves.” Writing children's poetry could be understood as a natural outgrowth of maternal nurturing instead of as a form self-expression. Moreover, writing for children also afforded women poets creative advantages, pressing them to produce poems that were intensely audience-oriented and that were shaped – formally and thematically – by the (perceived) needs of their readers.

In 1839 M. Gurney (who calls herself “A Mother”) prefaced her Rhymes for My Children with an account of its origins that made her attention to readers explicit:

The writer of the simple “Rhymes” which it contains, intended them solely for the use of her own children, to whom she wished to convey, with amusement, such rhymes as their tender minds were capable of receiving. As they seem to have answered the purpose for which they were designed, she is induced to offer them to other parents and the little inhabitants of their nurseries.

Gurney's preface resembles many other antebellum women's paratexts in its modest insistence on the private roots, and hence the legitimacy, of her published work. More significantly for my purposes, her orientation is audience-based; it is invested in a feedback loop that includes her children, who apparently helped her verify the worth and use-value of her rhymes. Indeed, as I will argue, pedagogical relationships organized women's juvenile verse formally and functionally, and these relationships generated intense, sustained engagement with questions of interdependence, autonomy, and power.

According to Virginia Jackson's influential historicization of lyric reading, nineteenth-century poetry reflected an eclectic set of social practices and expectations. Verses, including verses for children, did not necessarily circulate as author-centered expressive lyrics; instead, they were called ditties, “bits of talk,” songs, jingles, or rhymes.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×