History in Review
Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800
By Ruth H. Bloch. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 2003. Pg. x, 225.) ISBN: 0-5202-3406-5.
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - August 28, 2003
Each culture has its own attitudes toward the concept of gender, and each allocates specific roles based upon gender. In modern America, specific sentiments have developed which find their roots in early American culture. Modern American concepts about gender and gender roles presuppose that in the past women were subjugated due to biological frailties. Is this supposition correct? If so, when and why did the modern concept emerge that claims that societal dictates, not biology, is the main factor in women being seen as a second class citizen.
Ruth H. Bloch, former Chair of Women's Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, has written a series of essays on the subject of gender and morality in early American culture. These essays have been published under the title of Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800. In this intriguing work, Bloch investigates gender relationships and religious morality in Early American society. In the process she illustrates how our image of Early American gender roles has been romanticized. She also analyzes how these early patterns developed, and how they metamorphosed into current theories about gender and the modern concept of the family. "All eight of the essays in this book concern the relationship between notions of masculinity and femininity and wider cultural systems of value, and all of them emphasize the role of symbols and ideas in shaping definitions of gender." (Pg. 3.)
The text is divided into three sections. The essays in the first section provide general contextual information that deals with trends in feminist theories, and modern gender roles. The second section begins Bloch's historical overview of eighteenth century gender constructs. The final section deals with the pre-revolutionary period and how evolving political theories altered conventional gender patterns.
You can get a sense for the scope of the material covered in these essays by perusing the titles of the eight essays contained in this collection:
Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800 is a college level text that is well suited for use in courses on Women's history, Early American Cultural history, as well as courses concerned with feminist writing or literature.
- Theory. A Culturalist Critique of Trends in Feminist Theory
- History. Untangling the Roots of Modern Sex Roles: A Survey of Four Centuries of Change
- Revaluing Motherhood. American Feminine Ideals in Transition: The Rise of the Moral Mother, 1785-1815
- Regulating Courtship. Women and the Law of Courtship in Eighteenth-Century America
- Utilitarian vs. Evangelical Perspectives. Women, Love, and the Thoughts of Edwards and Franklin
- Religion and Sentimentalism. Religion, Literary Sentimentalism, and Popular Revolutionary Ideology
- Public / Private. Gender and the Public / Private Dichotomy in American Revolutionary Thought
The American Family in the Colonial Period, by Arthur W. Calhoun.
A sociological study of colonial American family life and how Old World attitudes and family dynamics and traditions were adapted to meet the conditions encountered in the New World.
Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805, by Eric Sloane.
This book is a synthesis of an authentic 1805 diary written by a fifteen-year-old boy, which has been combined with explanatory text and illustrations that provides a unique glimpse into daily life in rural New England in the early 1800's.
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