Hello Everyone and welcome back to New Books in History, a network on the New Books Network. I’m Jana Byars, your host, and I’m here today with Angela Firkus, Professor of History at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri to talk about her new book, America’s Early Women Celebrities: The Famous and Scorned from Martha Washington to Silent Film Star Mary Fuller, out this year, 2021 with McFarland & Company.
Well before television and the internet, there were women who sought fame, flirted with infamy, and actively engaged with their fan base. In today’s pop culture world, it can be hard to understand what the lives of these women were like. In their pre-suffrage world, women who attracted attention were considered scandalous and it was largely uncommon for women to become celebrities. Women who rose to fame in those times had to put up with societal standards for women on top of the lack of privacy and free speech.
This book provides the details and context to let us know the women who captured America’s heart in the18th and 19th centuries. Rather than looking at influential women who strictly avoided notoriety, it covers the lives of 18 celebrities like Lydia Maria Child, Sojourner Truth, and Jane Addams. The conversation covers the meaning of celebrity and how women use power.
Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.