History/GWS 249 Reading Guide

Women’s Reading and Writing during the Revolution and the Early Republic

  • Linda Kerber, chapter 8, “Women’s Reading in the Early Republic,” Women of the Republic (1980), 233-264.  (e-reserve)
    see also Jane Austen, selections from Northanger Abbey, Ch. V, 36-38; Ch. XIV, 108-110 (cited in part in Kerber).



  • What does Adams’s correspondence with her husband suggest about her perception of their relationship?
  • What interested her? What concerned her? What did she view as her responsibility to her husband, her family, and herself?
  • What did she read?
  • According to Kerber, how were women's minds appropriately nurtured in the early republic? 
  • Why were novels seen as dangerous?  Why did American society in the early republic blame novels for a woman's "downfall"?  What other concerns inspired the prescriptive warnings?
  • Why were women encouraged to read history?  What were women expected to gain and learn from such reading?  In what ways were those expectations limited?  Why?
  • Was the distinction between history and novels always clear?