A Lydia Maria Child Reader

A Lydia Maria Child Reader

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 464 Illustrations: Published: May 1997

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > U.S. History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

From the 1820s to the 1870s, Lydia Maria Child was as familiar to the American public as her Thanksgiving song, "Over the river and through the wood, / To grandfather’s house we go," remains today. Hardly a sphere of nineteenth-century life can be found in which Child did not figure prominently as a pathbreaker. She crusaded against slavery and racism, combated religious bigotry, championed women’s rights, publicized the plight of the urban poor, and campaigned for justice toward Native Americans. Showing an uncanny ability to pinpoint and respond to new cultural needs, Child pioneered almost every category of nineteenth-century American letters—historical fiction, the short story, children’s literature, the domestic advice book, women’s history, antislavery fiction, journalism, and the literature of aging.
This rich collection is the first to represent the full range of Child’s contributions as a literary innovator, social reformer, and progressive thinker over a career spanning six decades. It features stories, editorials, articles, and letters to politicians culled from rare newspapers and periodicals and never before published in book form; extracts from her trailblazing childrearing manual, history of women, and primer for the emancipated slaves; and a generous sampling of her best-known writings on slavery, the Indian question, poverty, and women’s rights. Witty, incisive, and often daringly unconventional, Child’s writings open a panoramic window on nineteenth-century American culture while addressing issues still relevant to our own time. In this anthology, the editor of Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl reemerges in her own right as one of the nation’s greatest prophets.


“Scholars and teachers of the nineteenth century owe Carolyn Karcher a great debt for her efforts to bring Lydia Maria Child to the notice of twentieth-century readers. . . [T]his new collection of Child’s writings . . . make[s] Child’s work more available and hence, more teachable. Karcher has grouped her readings topically, arranged them chronologically within each topic, and has provided excellent introductions for each section. This, together with her readable and wide-ranging introduction and a carefully arranged and selected bibliography facilitate the use of the collection in a variety of courses. . . . The publication of . . . A Lydia Maria Child Reader gives us little excuse to continue ignoring such an interesting, accomplished, and important nineteenth-century writer.” — , American Studies

“Students and teachers have much to be thankful for with the advent of Carolyn Karcher’s newly compiled and well-documented collection of the works of Lydia Maria Child. This volume is a well-chosen selection from Child’s prodigious production of written works. . . . Yet The Reader is more than a volume of the collected works of a woman heretofore buried in the historical past; it is an engaging involvement with one of America’s foremost women writers who concerned herself with the most important problems of America’s culture. . . . Carolyn Karcher’s considerable research and documentary efforts, excellent representative selection of Child’s work, and careful presentation of Lydia Maria Child’s life serve American scholars and the public admirably.” — H-Net Reviews

“Students, professors, and interested lay readers alike should appreciate the web of letters, short stories, newspaper articles, advice literature, magazine essays, tracts, histories, and children’s stories which reveal the accumulated social and political critiques of this ‘first woman of the republic.’ ” — , Journal of Women's History

“This comprehensive anthology reflects Child’s long, prolific career as journalist and reformer. . . . Much of her work has been buried in inaccessible newspapers and journals, and this collection returns her to the discourse of that century in which she played a vivid part.” — , Choice

"Child’s writings are very impressive—and pertinent to the debates of our own day on race, sexual difference, gender, work, and education. Students will find them fascinating, a revelation. Karcher establishes Child as one of the foremost intellectuals of the nineteenth century, a compelling author of an extraordinary range of books and articles on a host of subjects." — William E. Cain, Wellesley College

"One rarely sees a body of documentation as richly varied in important themes. This is a cross-disciplinary treasure, especially since so many of Child’s concerns foreshadowed issues now central to our time." — Sterling Stuckey, University of California, Riverside


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Carolyn L. Karcher is Professor of English, American studies, and women’s studies at Temple University and author of The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child also published by Duke University Press.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1949-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1954-2
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