The Women’s Rights Movement (1848-1920) was not an unforeseen revolution. Its progression can be seen through the works of several American literature writers, within the major eras upon its arrival. In the Exploration and Colonization period (1492-1700), Anne Bradstreet introduces the potential of female writers to the world. Then, in the Enlightenment and Revolution period (1700-1830), Phillis Wheatly, an enslaved African, steps outside of her boundaries by using her intellect to express her opinions to members of a race that deemed themselves superior. Finally, in the mid-1800s women decide to take action and demand the rights that they believed they are entitled. Margaret Fuller shocks ...view middle of the document...
Her argument was not precisely that women should be recognized as equals to men, but that males should respect them. In her poem, The Prologue, she addresses women’s abilities to produce prose of prominence and requests the respect that it deserves. She writes,
I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poets pen all scorn should I thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits,
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’l say it’s stoln, or else it was by chance. (Bradstreet)
Here she recognizes the point that because her work was impressive, people would not believe it was her own doing. She describes the tongue of males as carping, which, the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “caviling, fault-finding, captious criticism.” Her word choice here is important because it allows readers to truly understand how females felt about male intimidation. This intimidation minimized women ultimately leading to an increase in their drive to advance. She uses symbolism with her comparison of a “needle” to a “poets pen,” which links the work they were expected to do to the work they were actually capable of doing. A needle allows a woman little enlightenment while poetry allows them to foster new ideas, which transcended their typical gender roles. She says, “I am obnoxious” to establish her tone and show her dissatisfaction with the lack of respect men had for “women’s wit.” She recognizes women as having knowledge outside of formal education since; many of the women at this time were not fortunate enough to acquire proper educations. Males failed to recognize this knowledge that women possessed and blindly let it go to waste. Kathy Brook’s article, A Voice in the Wilderness: Seeing Anne Bradstreet as a Living Person, suggests, “Her words in some of her poems, such as “The Prologue,” voice dissent, appealing for equality, practicality, and respect.” Her work was viewed as dissent or different because during this time, she was doing something completely different from that of other women. Instead of busying herself with domestic work like other females, she spent her time writing. She wanted men to be sensible and accept women’s talents, but this would not prove to be an easy task. Bradstreet’s argument brings attention to the lack of reverence for women’s rights consequently alerting other women of the concern.
Anne Bradstreet was the first female American poet and her works, although simple, spoke on topics of significance. Bradstreet’s Selected Poems awakened society to women’s abilities, but did not bring much recognition to the issue of women’s rights. Instead, it brought attention to their desire to be respected which would later lead to the emergence of their desire to be equal to the opposite sex. Femininity, Diversity, and Community in Anthologies of Women’s Writing, published in 2009, states, “poetry, always aesthetically privileged, could simultaneously confirm women's literary abilities...