Date of Award

Spring 4-23-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Robert Baker

Second Advisor

Dr, Wendy Venet

Third Advisor

Dr. Jake Selwood

Abstract

The methodological approach used to tell the Smith sisters’ story is first and foremost a case study of women in the nineteenth century and the gendered categories that were constructed to define women. The story will be told through a biographical narrative, which will allow Hannah, Julia, and Abby Smith’s to tell their story in their own voice. Also, included within the biography is an examination of the nineteenth-century theories that defined women’s lives, and what effect, if any, these theories had on the Smiths. Each chapter is layered with three different narratives in an attempt to unravel the world that women lived in the nineteenth century. First, the chapter provides a description and analysis of the specific theories such as Republican Motherhood and cult of domesticity to ground the Smith women in the discursive world in which they lived. Then the chapter closely examines the practice or the way the Smith women lived their lives and what they thought about their world. Lastly, each chapter explores the secondary sources that have been written about each subject, such as the new female seminaries that opened in the nineteenth century. By combining these approaches, I hope to avoid some of the shortcomings that dominate the study of women today. First, the theoretical models and the study of real lives of women actually leave women out of their own stories. Second, historians tend to evaluate women’s lives from the past based upon their own political agendas and their own beliefs of what freedom and rights mean completely discarding what it might have meant to women in their own time period.

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