Disclaimer : This isn’t final but, I would appreciate your comments, and suggestions are welcomed
In Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s 1827 novel Hope Leslie we see the presence of a welcomed feminist perspective and ideas. Sedgwick’s primary female characters are able to adapt to their environment and are not solely portrayed as victims or as secondary to the men in the novel. In the introduction to Nina Baym’s Woman’s fiction A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America 1820-70, Baym acknowledges and reminds readers that during this era of Literature, American fiction by American women authors about women was by far and away the most popular literature at the time. This dismisses the myth that women led narratives were unpopular or unsuccessful in comparison to male authors. In fact Baym states “That men did not compose in this genre was surely not accidental. Most of them assumed an audience of men as a matter of course, and reacted with distress and dismay as they discovered that to make a living by writing they would have to please female readers”, women readers were a key factor to the success of the American Fiction genre, and as Baym recounts, Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s novels were the earliest examples in America to have female characters construct the narrative around their journey and goals. The characters of Hope Leslie and Magawisca are prime examples of female characters who have their own views and partake in their own decisions, they look after one another and while they are somewhat placed to be romantic rivals to each other, they both transcend and break free from ideals being forced on to them. In the novel we see that both female characters are placed in societies that expect them to act a certain way, and to think in a certain way but, we see that Hope and Magawisca are able to look beyond the ideals of other men in the novel through rejecting their love, or rejecting their demands, or rejecting their validity.
Featured image source : Catharine Maria Sedgwick
Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America, 1820-1870 by Nina Baym ( This can be found in the class dropbox under Encounters (Re)presented, in Recommended Reading)