This exciting collection of interdisciplinary essays explores the later decades of the nineteenth century in America - the immediate postbellum period, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era - as a time of critical change in the cultural visibility of women, as they made new kinds of appearances throughout American society.
The essays show how, across the USA, it was fundamentally women who drove changes in their visibility forward, in groups and as individuals. Their motivations, activities and understandings were essential to shaping the character of their present society and the nation's future.
The book establishes that these women's engagement with American society and culture cannot be simply understood in terms of the traditional polarities of inside/outside and private/public, since these frames do not fit the complexities of what was happening, be it women's occupation of geographic space, their new patterns of employment, their advocacy of working-class or ethnic rights, or their literary or cultural engagement with their milieux. Such women as Ida B. Wells, Mother Jones, Jane Addams, Rebecca Harding Davis, Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett, Louisa May Alcott and Kate Douglas Wiggin all come under consideration in the light of these radical changes.