Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South

Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South

The first study to focus on white and black women journalists and writers both before and after the Civil War, this book offers fresh insight into southern intellectual life, the fight for women's rights, and gender ideology. Based on fresh research into southern magazines and newspapers, this book seeks to shift scholarly attention away from novelists and toward the rich and diverse periodical culture of the South between 1820 and 1900. Magazines were of central importance to the literary culture of the South because the region lacked the publishing centers that could produce large numbers of books. Easily portable, newspapers and magazines could be sent through the increasingly sophisticated postal system for relatively low subscription rates. The mix of content, from poetry to short fiction and literary reviews to practical advice and political news, meant that periodicals held broad appeal. As editors, contributors, correspondents, and reporters in the nineteenth century, southern women entered traditionally male bastions when they embarked on careers in journalism. In so doing, they opened the door to calls for greater political and social equality at the turn of the twentieth century.


"In his finely written account of female journalists in the nineteenth-century South, Jonathan Wells fills a significant gap in our understanding of southern women’s history of the period. Through his deft research of southern magazines and periodicals, Wells proves that both black and white women were as politically and socially engaged as their northern counterparts, and that they have long been far more interested in the power of the pen than in the products of their sewing needles."
Karen Cox, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"Wells is engaged in recovery work. By attending to the little-examined work of southern women journalists and editors, Wells reveals a diverse literary world in which southern women made the case for intellectual equality with men and thus laid the foundation for later claims to political equality. Drawing on a rich and diverse evidentiary base, Wells argues cogently and persuasively."
Sarah E. Gardner, Mercer University

"Ambitious and highly original, Jonathan Wells’s lucidly written and clearly argued book charts new paths in understanding how women shaped Victorian America. Based on a wide reading of a dazzling array of sources, Wells uncovers a rich world of black and white female writers and readers - a world, until now, largely unknown. This is an important addition to the social and cultural history of the 19th century South."
William A. Link, University of Florida

"Jonathan Wells’s Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South is an important contribution to southern intellectual history and southern women's history. By mining the rich trove of southern periodical literature, Wells charts the evolution of white and black women as editors and writers from their earliest beginnings as poets, novelists, and printers, through their growing role in Civil War journalism, to the public acceptance of journalism as a career path. This invaluable study complicates our understanding of southern women's intellectual lives, highlights southern women's growing influence on public opinion, and convincingly argues the critical connections between southern women’s work as journalists with the emergence of the southern women’s rights movement. Deeply researched, well written, and convincingly argued, the book is a landmark study and a must-read for southern and women's historians alike."
Michele Gillespie, Wake Forest University

"Wells’s study will be useful to historians and literary scholars as they further their understanding of the nineteenth century."
Kathryn B. McKee, The Journal of American History

"Wells provides some new questions, some new answers, and a very useful source for historians of southern women to consider in the future."
Janet L. Coryell, The Journal of Southern History

"Wells has gone deeper than previous scholars in uncovering lost tales about extant and surviving magazines and newspapers in the South and the women who created and sustained them."
Jan Whitt, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

"Wells's book is an example of how journalism history should be carried forward - soundly rooted in history and drawing strength from other disciplines."
Kathleen L. Endres, American Journalism