America’s Early Women Celebrities

The Famous and Scorned from Martha Washington to Silent Film Star Mary Fuller


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About the Book

Well before television and the internet, there were women who sought fame, flirted with infamy, and actively engaged with their fan base. In today’s pop culture world, it can be hard to understand what the lives of these women were like. In their pre-suffrage world, women who attracted attention were considered scandalous and it was largely uncommon for women to become celebrities. Women who rose to fame in those times had to put up with societal standards for women on top of the lack of privacy and free speech.

This book provides the details and context to let us know the women who captured America’s heart in the 19th century. Rather than looking at influential women who strictly avoided notoriety, it covers the lives of 18 celebrities like Lydia Maria Child, Sojourner Truth, and Jane Addams.

About the Author(s)

Angela Firkus is professor of history at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. She teaches and publishes on American women’s history and other U.S. history topics. She also writes the blog Women Celebrities Remembered and Forgotten.

Bibliographic Details

Angela Firkus
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: 29 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8023-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4184-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
One—Phillis Wheatley and Martha Washington: Symbols of Genius and Amiability 5
Two—Susannah Rowson and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: Bad Girls at a Good Time 24
Three—Lydia Maria Child and Frances Wright: Voices of Conscience 42
Four—Fanny Elssler and Jenny Lind: Conquering America Through Art and Humbug 61
Five—Lola Montez, Fanny Fern and Adah Menken: Performing On and Off the Stage 85
Six—Harriet Beecher Stowe and Victoria Woodhull: Obscenity and Censorship 105
Seven—Sojourner Truth and Sarah Winnemucca: Using Humor to Lighten the Mood 124
Eight—Annie Oakley and Women of Action 146
Nine—Jane Addams and Mary Fuller and the Power of Film 168
Conclusion 185
Chapter Notes 191
Index 213