MARION RUST University of Virginia ``Into the House of an Entire Stranger'' Why Sentimental Doesn't Equal Domestic in Early American Fiction Catharine Maria Sedgwick, in an 1812 letter to her father, Theodore Sedgwick, described the difference between their two realms of influence. The passage has become central to the analysis of early American gender ideology. She wrote: A life dignified by usefulness, of which it has been the object and the delight to do good, and the happiness to do it in an extended sphere, does furnish some points of imitation for the most limited routine of domestic life. Wisdom and virtue are never at a loss for occasions and times for their exercise; the same light that lightens the world is applied to individual use and gratification. You may benefit a Nation, my dear Papa, I may improve the condition of a fellow-being. (Dewey 91) Nancy Cott has cited this passage as evidence of ``a broader cultural body of meaning'' in which, ``denied the incentive and opportunity for economic (and, generally, public) ambition'' accorded to men, ``women had instead the opportunity to serve others directly, within family relationships for the most part'' (23). Nineteen years later, Philip
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jul 1, 2002
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