Women Intellectuals in American History Bibliography

Query: From Lucindy Willis <willis@numen.elon.edu> 03 May 1996

I have just completed ( and successfully defended) my dissertation on Womanist Intellectual. The focus of my study was on Harriet Martineau, Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, and Susan Sontag.

This summer I would like to look at women intellectuals in American History. The problem is that most works on the history of the intellectual fail to mention even one woman. The only ones that come immediately to mind from colonial times to the early twentieth century are Margaret Fuller, Catherine Beecher, Margaret Mead, and Mary McCarthy. Can someone suggest either a) some other women intellectuals (and I'm also interested in cultural diversity) and/or b) some possible sources from which I might glean some information.

I am less interested in whether a woman is a feminist or not but rather whether she could be considered a public intellectual. I don't know why I am delving into all of this again, but the lack of information on women intellectuals in works by Shils, WIlliams, de Huszard,etc. angers me.

Any bits of information would be greatly appreciated.


From: Stephen Whitman <whitman@msmary.edu> 03 May 1996

For Lucindy Willis: You might be interested in Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's work on southern women writers on slavery. Louisa McCord would be the most prominent of these, perhaps. A good brief to the material is Fox-Genovese's "To Be Worthy of God's Favor: Southern Women's Defense and Critique of Slavery," given as the Fortenbaugh lecture at Gettysburg College on Nov. 19,1993. I'll drop a spare copy in the mail to you. Good luck.

From:               Kriste Lindenmeyer        
<KAL6444@tntech.edu>         03 May 1996

Carolyn Dahl was a significant woman intellectual in the Transcendentalist movement. She lived in Boston and "hung out" with Thoreau and Emerson. Helen Deese is currently editing Dahl's papers for publication (located at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston). Helen may be reached at the MHS or through the Tennessee Technological University English Department. Helen gave a paper on Dahl at the last American Historical Association meeting.

From: Desley Deacon DEACON@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu 03 May 1996

I have just finished a biography of the feminist intellectual Elsie Clews Parsons, who became the first female president of the American Anthropological Association. It will be published by U of Chicago Press next spring. She is an interesting example of a feminist public intellectual whose life and work were self-consciously witness to her beliefs about flexibility in gender roles and cultural diversity. There's a couple of good books published about her recently by Peter Hare and Rosemary Zumwalt, and Barbara Babcock and Louise Lamphere have written insightful articles about her.

From: Anya Jabour jabour@selway.umt.edu 03 May 1996

Try Susan Phinney Conrad, _Perish the Thought: Intellectual Women in Romantic America, 1830-1860_(New York: Oxford U Press, 1976) for some leads on 19th-century women intellectuals.

From:             Johanna Schoen            
<jschoen@email.unc.edu>       03 May 1996

There is a new anthology out, edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall, entitled _Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought_(New Press, 1995). Chapter one, spanning 1831-1900, includes works by Maria Miller Stewart, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Anna Julia Cooper, Julia A.J. Foote, Gertrude Bustill Mossell, Mary Church Terell, and Ida Wells-Barnett. That might be a place to start.

From:              Joan Gundersen         
jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu          03 May 1996

Your terminology of "public intellectual" is a problem for the early period of American history since many intellectuals, both male and female, in the U.S. in the 17th and 18th centuries worked in semi-public or private arenas - circulating manuscript writings, letters, or through conversation. None the less, I would suggest adding at least Judith Sargeant Murray to your list for the revolutionary era, and Ann Bradstreet and Ann Hutchinson for the 17th. In the late 19th century you should include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and in the 20th Pauli Murray. The "public" intellectual nature will skew the list towards women north of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S. and east of the Mississippi because of the forums available.

From:        Eliza Richards   <elicla@umich.edu >               
      03 May 1996

A book entitled _Perish The Thought_, whose author's name escapes me momentarily(suan Conrad?), is about American women intellectuals, primarily in the 19th century.

From:          Cathleen Thom           ThomABD@aol.com          
      03 May 1996

Lucindy--There is a wonderful anthology put out by Bloomsbury Publishing Limited called _Guide to Women's Literature Throughout the World: From Sappho to Atwood, Women's Writing Through the Ages_. Published in hardcover in 1992, in paperback in 1994, it has mini-bios on all major (and many minor) female writers(including poets, novelists, scientists, historians, intellectual essayists,etc.) from every historical time period in all areas of the world, including America. The names are listed alphabetically, however, so it does take some wading through if you don't already have a name in mind, but the first thing the mini-bios mention is the country of origin of the woman in question, which makes the wading less tedious. At the end of each entry, it lists the woman's major works. I have found the book invaluable in giving me a place to start whenever I am confronted with an unfamiliar name, or when I am looking for less familiar names whose works were/are similar to women with which I am already familiar. Good luck.

From:            Melissa Walker          
<mwalker@acad.bryant.edu>              03 May 1996

You might also look at Mercy Otis Warren who wrote on politics during and after the American Revolution. She wrote one of the first comprehensive histories of the Revolution. Rosemary Zangari wrote a biography of her called _A Woman's Dilemma: Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution_.

From: Ellen R. Donovan <edonovan@frank.mtsu.edu> 03 May 1996

I would be interested in how you are defining "public intellectual." Do you mean someone who is published author (as your list suggests) or do you have some other criteria? For example, Phyllis Wheatley comes to mind as someone who was intellectual(a poet) and a public figure. There are also plenty of women who had a public presence because of their involvement in reform movements, but I suppose that you might be looking at the foundations of their involvement. Are you excluding women who would use religion as a basis for their argument?

From: Jillian Dickert <DICKERT@BINAH.CC.BRABDEIS.EDU> 03 May 1996

The Women's Studies program at Brandeis U publishes a chronological list of women's intellectual work compiled by Professor Reinharz(Sociology) and her students. Their e-mail address w.studies@binah.cc.brandeis.edu Best of luck.

From:                  Janis L. McDonald  
<jlmcdona@law.syr.edu>     03 May 1996

You should check out Mercy Otis Warren, 1728-1814. I have been working on her forever(it seems) and would be happy to provide you with cites and sources.

From:                 Allida Black  <amblack@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>
       03 May 1996

how about toni morrison, lani guanier, adrienne rich, alice james and margaret mead

From:           Lisa Warne-Magro  
<lwarne@roma.physics.uiuc.edu>       03 May 1996

If you want to extend your study into the mid-twentieth century, then you probably ought to include Hannah Arendt, Diana Trilling, and Ayn Rand. I can get some references for you, if you want to e-mail me directly.

From:               Jennifer Rebecca Peters  
jrebecca@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu      04 May 1996

In response to Lucindy Willis' request for women intellectuals in American history, I just completed a seminar paper on Mercy Otis Warren(1728-1814), who wrote during the American Revolutionary War period. Among other things, she is noted as "the first woman American historian," having written propaganda plays and pamphlets, poetry, and her magnum opus, _History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution_(1805). I found the best sources on her were culled from articles in journals such as "The William and Mary Quarterly", but there are many biographies on her alone. (Much of the research is dated.) Mercy's works are now being reexamined by feminist historians and students such as myself studying women and war, and she would be a fascinating character for new scholarship. I have a fairly large bibliography if you are interested.

From:               Marian Nuedel         
mnuedel@acfsysv.roosevelt.edu        06 May 1996

The other question, of course, is what constitutes "American." Hannah Arendt, for instance, was unquestionably an intellectual woman, ans spent the last twenty-plus years of her life teaching and working in the US. And she was the only one of a whole generation of European refugees who contributed enormously to the intellectual life of the US, many of them women.

From:            Ruby Rohrlich      rohrlich@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu 
       07 May 1996

Not to mention Ruth Benedict. The Univ. of Texas Press in 1989 published a biography of her: _Ruth Benedict, Stranger in This Land_. I wrote a review of it for a NY city women's newspaper, which published three pages of my 12 page review.

From:                 Andrea Pappas           pappas@scf.usc.edu
                  07 May 1996

Depending on how you are defining "public intellectual" the following (in no particular order) may be helpful:

Check the cumulative index of _Partisan Review_--this may provide you with the names of women who have since been marginalized histories of the New York intellectuals(e.g. Mary McCarthy). And if founders of and writers for influential magazines are a defining characteristic of "public intellectual" than I think you must include Gloria Steinem.(this is basically what defines the crowd at _Partisan Review_, and like Steinem, they certainly had a political agenda.)

Don't forget art critics (male critics often "count" as intellectuals, e.g. Clement Greenberg): Ada Louise Huxtable, Lucy Lippard, Elaine de Kooning, Aline Saarinen, Emily Genauer, Rosalind Krauss, etc.

Also, I believe the founder/editor of the _Dial_ was a woman(names escapes me at the moment), Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson edited _The Little Review_. Harriet Monroe founded _Poetry_ magazine in 1912, an important venue for American modern poetry.

Ruth Stephan(with her husband) founded/ran the short-lived but important _The Tiger's Eye_ in the late 1940s. Susanne Langer was an important aesthetician in the mid 20th C. No account of 20th C. intellectual history would be complete without Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan! How about Emma Goldman? Hope this helps.

From:                    Mike                Mike9493@aol.com   
        07 May 1996

Have you considered Theodosia Burr?


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