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Book of the Week — Woman’s Worth and Worthlessness

“A woman might as well turn farmer, and undertake the plowing and ditching herself, because she wants a tulip-bed, as undertake the whole field of politics because the part which relates to her needs fresh seeding down.” — Mary Abilgail Dodge

Woman’s Worth and Worthlessness
Mary Abigail Dodge, ed. (1833-1896)
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1872
First edition
HQ1426 D76 1872

This is a collection of essays arguing that any reform in women’s lives must first occur in the home and not from political influence. Mary Abigail Dodge edited the collection under the pseudonym “Gail Hamilton.” Born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, Abigail Dodge rejected a career as a teacher and began writing poetry and essays. She sent early attempts to the anti-slavery publication “National Era” in Washington. She became the governess of that editor’s children and began writing essays in earnest, publishing in The Atlantic Monthly and other periodicals.

She defended journalism and its acceptance of women as valued if not equal contributors to a national conversation, writing, “The columns of the newspapers are as widely and as fully open to woman as to man. Neither publisher nor editor cares for the sex of a writer.”  Yet she battled her publishers for equal pay for her work for most of her career.

She became a popular commentator on life, offering witty but practical observations on self-reliance and self-respect and current events. She was considered a rather severe critic of men. Dodge believed in education and equal opportunities for all, but thought that suffrage would be too burdensome for women, whose proper role was within the family sphere. In her Preface she wrote, “Looking but casually at Woman Suffrage, I regarded it with indifference. From a careful survey I can not [sic] regard it but with apprehension. The more closely I scrutinize it, the more formidable seems to me the revolution which it implies, the more onerous seem the duties which it imposes.”

Rare Books copy in publisher’s red-brown cloth ruled and stamped in blind and gilt, gilt-lettered spine, beveled edges, brown coated endpapers. Stamped Floral and geometric designs on front board.

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