Although they wrote in the same historical milieu as their male counterparts, women writers of the 19th- and early 20th-centuries have generally been "ghettoized" by critics into a separate canonical sphere. These original essays argue in favor of reconciling male and female writers, both historically and in the context of classroom teaching.
While some of the essays pair up female and male authors who write in a similar style or with similar concerns, others address social issues shared by both men and women, including class tensions, economic problems, and the Civil War experience. Rather than privileging particular genres or certain well-known writers, the contributors examine writings ranging from novels and poetry to autobiography, utopian fiction, and essays. And they consider familiar figures like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson alongside such lesser-known writers as Melusina Fay Peirce, Susie King Taylor, and Mary Gove Nichols.
Each essay revises the binary notions that have been ascribed to males and females, such as public and private, rational and intuitive, political and domestic, violent and passive. Although they do not deny the existence of separate spheres, the contributors show the boundary between them to be much more blurred than has been assumed until now.