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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Cult of Domesticity
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Cult of Domesticity
Text 1. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Text 2. Caroline Gilman
Text 3. Catharine E. Beecher
Text 4. Harriet Jacobs
Text 5. Fanny Fern
Text 6. Godey's Lady's Book
» Reading Guide
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Text 7. Rev. Theodore Parker
Text 8. Elizabeth Cady Stanton


RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
6.  Godey's Lady's Book, 1850 (six issues)

"There is a beautiful parallelism between the condition of woman in her domestic life and the character of a nation," writes the editor of Godey's Lady's Book in 1850—Sara Josepha Hale, who prepared the monthly with a primarily female staff (Louis Godey was the publisher). With this "parallelism" in mind, consider adding GLB to your readings, especially to contrast with the singular voices of the women authors included in this menu.

Published from 1830 to 1898, Godey's was the Good Housekeeping of its day, providing fiction, essays, fashion spreads, crafts projects, house plans, mail-order opportunities, and, yes, gossip about the British royals. Perusing these six issues from 1850 will reset your mental gauge as you consider the lives of middle-class American women of the time. Would appeal to students. 1-5 pages, depending on the selection.


Recommended Selections
  ·  January, 1850: "The Flight of Time," "Ideals Husbands, or School Girls' Fancies," "Song" (by Francis S. Osgood), "Editor's Table" (on woman's rights and the education of women).
  ·  February, 1850: "The Elopement," "Woman's Power," "Woman's Best Ornament," "Fashions for February," "Editor's Table" (on comparisons of men and women).
  ·  March, 1850: "The Sphere of Women," "Bridal Costumes," "Editor's Table" (on pursuing learning after formal education, equal access to women's education, men's views of marriage, and more).
  ·  April, 1850: "Woman's Rights," Editor's Table" (on the devotion of the "heathen mother").
  ·  November, 1850: "Remarks on Four of the Languages of Europe [first paragraph]," "The Fine Arts Applicable for Useful Purposes," "Fashionable Winter Dresses," "Editor's Table" (on diaries for single young women).


Discussion questions
  ·  Does the "condition of woman in her domestic life" parallel "the character of a nation," as the GLB editor asserts? If so, how?
  ·  For what purposes should women develop a "cultivated intellect"?
  ·  What is the proper influence for women to exert in the family and society?
  ·  In what ways does GLB reflect its times? Was it ahead of its time in any way?
  ·  How do GLB and Fanny Fern's Leaves contrast as popular media for white women at the time?


Reading highlights
  ·  Note how editor Sara Hale, in the "Editor's Table" commentaries, moderates her support for women's education and "equality."
  ·  View an assortment of GLB offerings, from fiction to fashion spreads, to absorb its vision of ideal domestic life.


» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did women of this period define themselves? What stories did they choose to tell?
  •  In what ways did these women exercise—and define—power and influence?
  •  How did the “cult of domesticity” shape the debate over woman’s place in antebellum American society?
  •  In what ways did this debate reflect the prevailing tensions of race, class, region, and religion in American society?




Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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