Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 01/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Schwalm, Leslie A.

First Committee Member

Rigal, Laura

Second Committee Member

Mumford, Kevin

Third Committee Member

Sessions, Jennifer

Fourth Committee Member

Storrs, Landon


This dissertation is a cultural history of how race and gender influenced nineteenth-century citizenship. The gender ideology of true womanhood is generally described as a practice of white middle-class women; however it was also used to define racial difference and to attach a civic purpose to the everyday practices of women. The antebellum prominence of true womanhood relied upon a female focused print culture and created a shared identity among white middle-class women and those who sought to emulate them. This dissertation provides a new interpretation of the cultural importance of true womanhood. First, it argues that women understood their everyday life to hold a civic purpose. Second, while activists tried to overturn legal curtailments to equality, non-activist women saw their civic status as different -- although not inferior to -- that of men. They made forays into the public sphere through print culture and actively redefined the private sphere by linking their domestic work to nation building. Finally, evolving interpretations of womanhood were not simply a reflection of the changing labor of middle-class women in the emerging market economy, but also linked femininity with class and race. Middle-class white women sought to differentiate themselves from immigrants and women of color by enhancing the significance of the home and by distinguishing between household labor and household management. Middle-class African American women also pursued true womanhood to enhance their own status and to argue that their well-ordered homes proved that African American men were patriarchs in their own rights and worthy of citizenship and the vote.

This dissertation rewrites our understanding of women's influence over definitions of citizens and citizenship in the nineteenth century. To do so, I interpret the intersections of black and white constructions of "true womanhood" by applying a cultural (citizenship as lived experience) instead of a political interpretation of citizenship. Doing so re-conceptualizes domesticity as a political force in the nineteenth century and explores how home, race and gender transected to create individual identities of Americans as Americans. An overarching goal of this project is to chart the evolution of citizenship in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as it followed the dual tracts of judicial and legislative construction in juxtaposition with cultural understandings of what makes a citizen.


Citizenship, Domesticity, print culture, Race, womanhood


viii, 383 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 351-383).


Copyright © 2013 Susan Joyce Stanfield

Available for download on Friday, January 31, 2020

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