FRE In what ways did the early nineteenth-century reform movements for abolition and women's rights illustrate both the strengths and the weaknesses of democracy in the early American republic?

Essay by ReDPyRoHigh School, 11th grade February 2004

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Life for the American woman in the 19th century was full of conflicts and struggles. Women suffered from a lot of discrimination, and were not allowed to vote, attend universities, speak in public, or own property, and were essentially forced to fight for their place within society. Regardless of these difficulties, women gathered strength in numbers and succeeded in establishing permanent social changes.

Writing was a popular form of expression for women and was used as tools of social change--in the form of letters, essays, magazine and newspaper articles, short stories and books. These works became the beginning of intellectual expression through which women not only battled for their own rights, but paralleled their situation to that of the enslaved black man as well, and fought for the abolition of slavery.

In actuality, the Romantics and a transcendental way of thought greatly influenced the writing of women and their sentimental literature.

Romanticism reached American during a time of expansion, growth and constant change in a generation of people struggling to define themselves, and produced a newfound need for self-awareness and self-expression. Transcendentalism dominated the thinking of America and its way of thought echoed throughout the shifting society during the entire 19th century. In one way or another America's most creative minds were drawn into its influence, attracted to its sensible and down-to-earth message of confident self-identity, spiritual progress, and social justice.

Women then took one step further when in 1843 Margaret Fuller backed up a declaration and expanded it in her article The Great Lawsuit which concluded that all people should be equal, women as well as men, black as well as white. Although influenced by the effects of Romanticism, sentimental literature differed vastly from that of Romantic literature. In contrast to this heavily metaphoric male literature, which was situated...