In The Woman as Slave in Nineteenth-Century American Social Movements
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Ana Stevenson
explores the ubiquity of what she terms the “woman-slave analogy” in nineteenth-century US feminist discourse. Using examples from the women’s suffrage, abolition, dress-reform, and labor movements, among others, Stevenson reconstructs the creation of this theoretical framework that imagined women’s subjugation as similar to, and sometimes even worse than, the plight of enslaved Americans. Although the women-slave analogy sometimes appeared tone-deaf, Stevenson demonstrates the many different ways that reformers--men and women, black and white--embraced the concept to fight for women’s political, legal, and economic rights. Crucially, Stevenson’s book encourages us to rethink the intellectual foundations of modern feminism and to critically evaluate the legacy of the women-as-slave worldview.
Chelsea Gibson is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Binghamton University. Her research explores the reception of Russian terrorist women in the United States before 1917.