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Woolson, A.G.

Woman in American Society.


Woolson, Abba Goold. Woman in American Society. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1873.   
8vo.; hinges tender; brown cloth, stamped in gilt; extremities frayed; abrasions in an inch-wide strip along lower joint, with some loss to cloth, not affecting spine. In a specially made cloth slipcase.   
First edition of this selection of twenty of Woolson's (1838-1921) essays, previously published in the Boston Journal; Currier 427. A presentation copy, likely inscribed at a New York meeting of Julia Ward Howe's Association for the Advancement of Women, which referred to its annual meetings as "Congresses": Mrs. Mary A. Newton With kind regards, from The Author. New York Oct. 18 1873. "Woman's Congress."
In her prefatory note to the reader, Woolson states her goal in compiling this volume: "to depict, as truthfully as may be, the successive phases of woman's life, as she passes from girlhood to mature age."
If, in pointing out some of the follies that still beset her, I have chosen to speak the sober words of truth rather than the dulcet flatteries she has been wont to hear, it is because I honor the native qualities which lie hidden beneath these poor disguises, and long to see her attain that ideal of true womanhood which must, ere long, hover within her grasp….
The essays range from "The School-Girl" to "The Queen of the Home," hitting upon aspects of education, health, marriage, and social life along the way. In more than one chapter Woolson discusses the need for dress reform, which was a subject of particular importance to her. The year Woman in American Society was published, she chaired a committee of the New England Women's Club to investigate the need for such reform, and in 1874 she edited Dress-Reform, comprised of four lectures by women physicians and one by herself. Later publications include Browsing among Books (1881) and George Eliot and Her Heroines (1886).
In his letter to the Roberts Brothers promoting the manuscript for publication-reprinted following the title page-John Greenleaf Whittier writes, "[a]part from their literary merit, as the well-considered words of a clear-sighted, healthful-minded woman, upon subjects of general interest, but especially relating to the opportunities, duties, and responsibilities, as well as the rights, or her sex, I cannot but believe they will find favor with a large class of readers." A reviewer for the Christian Register wrote that although Woolson "evidently sympathized with the Women's Rights part…she has none of the complaint and wail over the degradation of woman which burdens so much of the argument of her party." He declared the book "good in style, good in thought, good in its practical purpose, its shrewd sense, its exquisite humor, its delicate sarcasm, its honesty and its earnestness."

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