Maria Jane McIntosh a woman in her time: a biographical and critical study
2010-11-02T14:06:53Z (GMT) by
The major concern of this thesis is to examine and highlight the importance of Maria McIntosh (1803 - 1878), the woman and the writer, as a cultural and historical index of nineteenth-century America. It will also establish her worth and place her and her literary works in the proper position in the history of nineteenthcentury American culture, early feminism and women's writing. This study deals with McIntosh's biography, and then evaluates her works within the context of her time. The thesis discusses two basic issues: women's rights and slavery. McIntosh was a product of her society, and was unable to reject its values. Hence, she was forced to seek a balance between the prevalent concepts of domesticity and the demands of emerging women's rights. Her works reflect a conflict between the dictates of culture and those of her inner self: her rights of the mind were in conflict with her duties to her domestic sphere. McIntosh's writings reveal much of the private life of the Victorian woman. Her prose and fictional works portray the conditions of women and their struggles against a male-dominated society. Thus, her books firmly establish her as a successful exponent of nineteenth-century American culture. Special emphasis is given to McIntosh's "feminist" ideology - her notions of independence and work - through the study of her fictional heroines who are neither totally domestic, nor completely feminist. They achieve independence by depending on God rather than on man. The thesis will also discuss McIntosh as a proslavery writer and show that her feminist ideology became more radical in her proslavery novel. Her heroine, a plantation mistress, advocates complete independence in contrast to the mythical plantation novels which usually insist on domestic and submissive women. All in all, the raison d'etre of this study is to prove that McIntosh's works represent a protest against long-entrenced trivializing and contemptuous views of women. The study will also establish her as a less conservative and sentimental writer than is usually assumed - perhaps she can be named "a domestic-feminist". Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the worth of McIntosh in the history of American culture and in the history of early feminism.