Women Empowerment: The Construction of Female Gender in Anne of Green Gables & Little Women

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Introduction

The antebellum period brought about many changes in American society. One of those changes was the manner in which American households were organized. Robert Max Jackson argues in his account on gender inequality that up to the 1820s a patriarchal ideology predominated the American household giving fathers absolute authority; they would rule their homes as “communal enterprises” in which husband and wife worked together in order to earn a living. However, from the 1820s onwards the economy rapidly expanded as a consequence of the industrial revolution and many men started to work away from home in industrial and commercial firms, leaving their wives at home to carry out the domestic duties. As a result of this “separation
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According to Victor Watson point out, Anne is “uneasily situated between two worlds: the traditional nineteenth-century female domain of house and family, and the more modern sphere shaped by the claims of individualism” (39). In her work Montgomery clearly shows the difficulties for a young girl to find a balance between personal development and devotion to social duties. Louisa May Alcott also struggled with the ideal image of the “true woman”, as in her eyes it limited a woman’s personal development. In 1874 she wrote a letter to a friend of the Alcotts, Maria S. Porter, in which she expressed her feelings about woman’s rights as opposed to a “woman’s sphere”: “In future let woman do whatever she can do; let men place no more impediments in her way; above all things let’s have fair play, — let simple justice be done, say I” (qtd. in Estes and Lant 99). Her aversion to domestic ideology is most evident in one of her early stories, Behind a Mask: Or, a Woman’s Power (1866), which tells the story of a young woman, Jean Muir, who in order to survive in society has to impersonate the character of a “true woman”. Behind a Mask claims, as Judith Fetterley points out, that “there is no honest way for a woman to make a living; survival depends upon one stratagem or another” (Impersonating 2). Although Behind a Mask represents Alcott’s feelings about women’s

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