Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Women and Marriage in Utopias by Sarah Scott, Mary Griffith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman
by Purdy, Lillian Mauldin, Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2015, 246; 10002467
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines four utopian novels written by women: Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall, Mary Griffith’s Three Hundred Years Hence, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Minister’s Wooing, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Moving the Mountain. The works cover a 150-year span and yet suggest some commonalities that occur when women writers create utopian visions. In each work, improved marriages become a metaphor for the larger utopian communities, and each text expands women’s places in traditional married life. The writers attempt to create an environment that improves lived experiences, especially for women and children, and each work suggests that marriage experiences and marriage options can improve for women.

The first chapter examines Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall, a utopian vision set in an eighteenth-century English country house. Her vision creates a secluded space where women find protection from patriarchal abuses; however, a major goal of the community is to train young women for marriage. The inclusion of the founders’ biographical vignettes shows the tension between the cloistered environment and the larger, contemporary community.

Chapters Two, Three, and Four consider utopian novels written by American writers. Each text is written on the cusp of a national calamity: the financial panic of 1837, the Civil War (1861-1865), and World War I (1914-1918). In the years leading up to these national tragedies, the three writers create hopeful utopias on American soil. Griffith’s work is the first known utopian novel written by an American woman. In it, she creates a futuristic space where women have solved many problems facing 1830’s women and families and women have gained equality with men. In Stowe’s utopia, women feminize religion and take on spiritual leadership roles within the domestic sphere, and former slaves live within the utopian community. Stowe’s work demonstrates the competence and superiority of women in roles traditionally reserved for males. Gilman’s work is a secular piece that grapples with utopia in an urban setting with females serving in leadership roles. Her text solves many social problems facing early twentieth-century America. Thus, each text radically expands contemporary marital opportunities for women.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wilson, Mary A.
Commitee: DeVine, Christine, Green, John C.
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature
Keywords: Female utopia, Marriage, Utopia
Publication Number: 10002467
ISBN: 978-1-339-41975-6
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