• Archives of Labor: Working-Class Women and Literary Culture in the Antebellum United States

    Pages: 328
    Illustrations: 7 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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  • Acknowledgments  ix
    Introduction  1
    1. Factory Fictions: Lowell Mill Women and the Romance of Labor  33
    2. Factory Labor and Literary Aesthetics: The Lowell Mill Girl, Popular Fiction, and the Proletarian Grotesque  73
    3. Narrating Female Dependency: The Sentimental Seamstress and the Erotics of Labor Reform  113
    4. Harriet Wilson's Our Nig and the Labor of Race  153
    5. Hidden Hands: E.D.E.N. Southworth and Working-Class Performance  180
    6. Writing Mexicana Workers: Race, Labor, and the Western Front  219
    Postscript. Looking for Antebellum Workingwomen  247
    Notes  251
    Works Cited  285
    Index  303
  • "[Archives of Labor] is a remarkable feat of original research and suggests routes for further study – not least on formal innovation and tone in antebellum literature."


  • "[Archives of Labor] is a remarkable feat of original research and suggests routes for further study – not least on formal innovation and tone in antebellum literature."

  • "Lori Merish reminds us that when it comes to thinking about gender and race, the factory was as important as the home. She also dissolves any lingering notions that literature produced by and about working people, especially working women, lacks complexity or social and psychic depth. Archives of Labor recovers a compelling archive while providing insight into the gendered conditions of labor in the antebellum United States." — Russ Castronovo, author of, Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States

    "An extraordinary achievement, Archives of Labor uncovers and compiles a rich, deep, and complex body of working women's writings, arguing passionately and persuasively about why this archive matters for understanding popular fiction, labor history, women's history, and literary history. Lori Merish's spectacular work makes a major contribution." — Glenn Hendler, author of, Public Sentiments: Structures of Feeling in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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  • Description

    In Archives of Labor Lori Merish establishes working-class women as significant actors within literary culture, dramatically redrawing the map of nineteenth-century US literary and cultural history. Delving into previously unexplored archives of working-class women's literature—from autobiographies, pamphlet novels, and theatrical melodrama to seduction tales and labor periodicals—Merish recovers working-class women's vital presence as writers and readers in the antebellum era. Her reading of texts by a diverse collection of factory workers, seamstresses, domestic workers, and prostitutes boldly challenges the purportedly masculine character of class dissent during this era. Whether addressing portrayals of white New England "factory girls," fictional accounts of African American domestic workers, or the first-person narratives of Mexican women working in the missions of Mexican California, Merish unsettles the traditional association of whiteness with the working class to document forms of cross-racial class identification and solidarity. In so doing, she restores the tradition of working women's class protest and dissent, shows how race and gender are central to class identity, and traces the ways working women understood themselves and were understood as workers and class subjects.

    About The Author(s)

    Lori Merish is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University and the author of Sentimental Materialism: Gender, Commodity Culture, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature, also published by Duke University Press.
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