When Ruth Hall was originally published in 1855, it caused a sensation. In it, Fanny Fern (Sara Payson Willis Parton) portrays a mid-nineteenth-century woman who realizes the American Dream solely on her own becoming the incarnation of the American individualist-regarded at that time as a role designed exclusively for men. Based on the author's life, the novel reflects her spirit of practical feminism-that a woman was only truly independent when she was financially independent.Fanny Fern was one of the most popular American writers of the mid-nineteenth century, the first woman newspaper columnist in the United States, and the most highly paid newspaper writer of her day. This volume gathers together for the first time almost one hundred selections of her best work as a journalist. Writing on such taboo subjects as prostitution, venereal disease, divorce, and birth control, Fern stripped the facade of convention from some of society's most sacred institutions, targeting cant and hypocrisy, pretentiousness and pomp.
Fern portrays a mid-nineteenth century woman who becomes the incarnartion of the American individualist, something regarded as exclusively for men.
Joyce W. Warren is an associate professor of English and director of Women's Studies at Queens College of the City University of New York. She is the author of The American Narcissus and Fanny Fern, and editor ofThe (Other) American Traditions and Challenging Boundaries.