Women writers and reformers
American women endured many
inequalities in the 19th century:
They were denied the vote, barred from professional schools and
most higher education, forbidden to speak in public and even
attend public conventions, and unable to own property. Despite
these obstacles, a strong women's network sprang up. Through
letters, personal friendships, formal meetings, women's
newspapers, and books, women furthered social change.
Intellectual women drew parallels between themselves and slaves.
They courageously demanded fundamental reforms, such as the
abolition of slavery and women's suffrage, despite social
ostracism and sometimes financial ruin. Their works were the
vanguard of intellectual expression of a larger women's literary
tradition that included the sentimental novel. Women's
sentimental novels, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle
, were enormously popular. They appealed to the emotions
often dramatized contentious social issues, particularly those
touching the family and women's roles and responsibilities.