…for real this time. I finally passed my German reading exam!
To begin, a challenge to the historiography of “woman’s sphere” as a separate sphere:
“The prejudice that they [women] were going ‘beyond their sphere’ has met them at every step of their intellectual and moral progress….And these denunciations were made because she established schools for the poor, and female friendly societies to improve the habits and character of those who had none to help them. They were made by men, by clergymen, who feared that a woman, by outvying them in doing good, would rob them of their exclusive glory. How contemptible now does the conduct of those men appear. How nobly the example of Hannah More should animate her sex to endure, if so it must be, the reproach and ridicule of the selfish and prejudiced, while engaged in works of benevolence and in designs of philanthropy and improvement; as men come more and more to comprehend the spirit and truth of Christianity, so will the estimation of woman’s sphere increase. They [men] will see that the religion of Jesus is, throughout, in harmony with female character, that he poured contempt on all those pursuits from which men claim to derive their exclusive power and glory.”
– From Sarah J. Hale, Godey’s Ladies’ Magazine, November 1837
Sarah J. Hale defined the “woman’s sphere” as the practice of women’s Christian benevolence and philanthropy in the private and public spheres.