New England Women Writers, Secularity, and the Federalist Politics of Church and State

ISBN : 9780198864950

Gretchen Murphy
240 ページ
138 x 216 mm

Drawing on literature, correspondence, sermons, legal writing, and newspaper publishing, this book offers a new account women's political participation and the process of religious disestablishment. Scholars have long known that eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American women wrote pious, sentimental stories, but this book uses biographical and archival methods to understand their religious concerns as entry points into the era's debates about democratic conditions of possibility and the role of religion in a republic. Beginning with the early republic's constitutional and electoral contests about the end of religious establishment and extending through the nineteenth century, Murphy argues that Federalist women and Federalist daughters of the next generation adapted that party's ideas and fears by promoting privatized Christianity with public purpose. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Sedgwick, Lydia Sigourney, Judith Sargent Murray, and Sally Sayward Wood authorised themselves as Federalism's literary curators, and in doing so they imagined new configurations of religion and revolution, faith and rationality, public and private. They did so using literary form, writing in gothic, sentimental, and regionalist genres to update the Federalist concatenation of religion, morality, and government in response to changing conditions of secularity and religious privatization in the new republic. Murphy shows that their project both complicates received narratives of separation of church and state and illuminates the problem of democracy and belief in postsecular America.


1 Universalists and Jacobins in Judith Sargent Murray's The Gleaner
2 The Wonder of Rational Christianity: The Illuminati and Sally Sayward Wood
3 Lydia Sigourney in the Land of Steady Habits
4 Suspending Unbelief: The Secular Threats of Catharine Sedgwick's Redwood
5 Harriet Beecher Stowe's Evangelical Story of Disestablishment


Gretchen Murphy is the Arthur J. Thaman and Wilhelmina Dore Thaman Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Hemispheric Imaginings: The Monroe Doctrine and Narratives of U.S. Empire (Duke University Press) and Shadowing the White Man's Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (New York University Press).