By Elizabeth Elkin Grammer
This publication is a learn of 7 autobiographies through ladies who defied the family ideology of nineteenth-century the United States through serving as itinerant preachers. actually and culturally homeless, them all used their autobiographies to build, from an array of fabrics, believable identities as ladies and Christians in an age that discovered them demanding to understand.
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And as any reader of Bunyan knows, that story has a definite ending. Christian does not just march around the Slough of Despond and the Delectable Mountains: he marches through them on his way to the Celestial City. Most journeys, while they may take the form of a promiscuous odyssey, leading one to places not on a proposed itinerary, have an end, or at least most pilgrims have an end in mind when they set out. Christians deeply committed to their faith, these seven women (no less than their male counterparts) would have identified the City of God as their ultimate destination.
For they wrote their books, sometimes at considerable length. They gave them titles that promise not only the facts about the “Ministerial Travels,” “Labors and Experiences,” “Vicissitudes”—and, in nearly every case, the Life—of the author, but the moral meanings of those as well. They claim to offer texts that are, as James Cox has phrased it, “equal” to the selves behind them (128). But all of them found this task difficult. Of course, to some extent all of us make sense of our lives, unorthodox or not, by weaving an identity out of borrowed threads, out of the cultural materials at hand.
In each chapter I consider how these women—all of them what James Cox would call “naive autobiographers” (unlike autobiographers who were writers by trade like Henry James and Mark Twain)—use language, images, metaphors, and literary conventions in their attempts to justify and advertise themselves and in the complex task of understanding the self and representing it in autobiography (127). I do not dismiss the possibility of learning something factual about the lives of these women, and of nineteenth-century women in general, from these autobiographies.
Some Wild Visions: Autobiographies by Female Itinerant Evangelists in Nineteenth-Century America by Elizabeth Elkin Grammer