Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
Assistant Professor, English, Villanova University
Giving Women: Sisterhood and Exchange in the Early Women’s Movement
Images of women exchanging gifts saturated the popular imagination during the nineteenth century, a time when many women lacked property and all faced limited professional options. Afforded marginal positions with respect to the burgeoning capitalist marketplace, women located alternative forms of economic power and satisfaction elsewhere, using a broad spectrum of gift practices to establish communities of thought and action. Jill Rappoport, in her book project, draws on anthropological gift theories as well as schools of new historical and feminist literary studies to identify and examine representations of Victorian women’s gift exchange that would be fundamental to the emerging women’s movement. Varied forms of giving, and the obligations they created, were central not only to nineteenth-century women’s literary imagination but to the development and mobilization of a socially-conscious, economically-savvy, and politically active sisterhood.