Synopses & Reviews
The beginning of the 19th century saw much of the population move from farms to cities as jobs in the new mills and factories became plentiful. An urban middle class developed and with it new roles and challenges for women in marriage, work, education, and politics. Many women were offered opportunities and responsibilities that had formerly been for men alone.
More women sought work outside the home, but they had few choices, earned little money, and in almost every case the work they did--in the textile mills of New England, as teachers, in domestic service--was connected to women's traditional work in the home. African- American women had even less choice of jobs. Slaveholders cared little about preserving a "women's sphere" for field workers and women were sent to the fields just as men were. White southern plantation women and privileged women in the north claimed and exercised a power in the home that they were denied in public, as they managed and oversaw their "domestics"--women who worked in the home as slaves or for minimal wages. And privileged young women sought an education nearly equal to that of men as women's seminaries and colleges began to provide demanding and extensive courses of study.
Westward expansion offerred opportunities of a different sort. Women who joined the movement to seek new lands were faced with hardship, but also with adventure and the promise of new prospects. Native American and Hispanic women whose lands were being conquered by the onrushing Americans had little consolation. Their way of life took a dramatic turn for the worse as settlers took their land, and missionaries modified their culture.
These years leading to the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first for women's rights in the United States, were a time of awakening. Through education, religion, and social reform, women began to understand their ability to influence events. Margaret Fuller, Mother Seton, Lucy Stone, and Harriet Beecher Stowe are but a few of the women who left their marks as women began Breaking New Ground.
"A solid introduction to the lives and experiences of American women in the first half of the nineteenth century... Goldberg does a fine job of presenting complex issues in language comprehensible to young readers... One of the work's major strenths is the large number of marvellous illustrations that supplement the text. Photographs, lithographs, paintings, and reproductions of documents enliven Goldberg's points, and allow young readers to put faces to names and images to ideas.... Goldberg employs succinct and effective prose to lead his readers through a lively account of this important period... Breaking New Ground represents a step forward in presenting the history of American women to young readers."--H-Net Book Review
"Useful for students interested in the history of ideas."--School Library Journal
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution lured many Americans from farms to the cities, creating new opportunities and new limitations for women. Some women were forced to look for work in the few occupations open to them, while others became full-time homemakers. Americans constructed new ways of thinking about the "proper roles" of women and men, with women as the moral educators in the private sphere of home and church while men participated in the public sphere of business and politics. By 1848, with the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, some women were exposing how these conditions and ideas kept them from achieving their highest potential. Even before this revolutionary event, women mill workers, African-American slaves, and others were resisting their oppressive conditions in a variety of ways. Michael Goldberg shows readers how women began to understand their ability to influence events through education, religion, and anti-slavery societies, and he discusses the hopes and concerns about marriage and courtship of both slave and free women, and how changes in personal relationships reflected changes in society at large. Emma Willard, one of the earliest proponents of expanded female education, Margaret Fuller, abolitionists Angelina and Sarah Grimk, Mother Seton, Lucy Stone, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Lydia Maria Child are but a few who left their marks as women began breaking new ground.
About the Author
About the Author -
Michael Goldberg is assistant professor of liberal studies at the University of Washington at Bothell. He is the author of An Army of Women: Gender, Politics and Power in Gilded-Age Kansas and a contributor of the Dictionary of American Biography.