American woman in fact and fiction; A nineteenth century Minerva
The following program is produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA, Berkeley, California, under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. We present the American woman in fact, in fiction, from colonial times to the present day, a series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard, and produced by Virginia Maynard and Charles Levy, part 7, a 19th century manoeuvre. Margaret Fuller, the early 19th century feminist writer, is remembered today more for the life she lived and the things that have been written about her than for anything she herself wrote. In a day when women, for the most part, limited their intellectual pursuits, the perusal of the cookbook and of light novels, she was an accepted member of the avant-garde transcendental circle of Boston and Concord, which included such men as Emerson, Thoreau, and William Henry Channing, and even in this distinguished company she was acclaimed for her intellectual
genius. She was editor with Emerson of the transcendentalist publication The Dial. She was for some years literary critic and foreign correspondent for Horace Greeley's Liberal New York Tribune, and in 1844 she published her Woman in the 19th Century, the first comprehensive argument for Woman's Rights written by an American, which brought her fame at home and abroad. Yet, as she herself wrote of George Sand, whom she greatly admired, her very existence proved the need of some new interpretation of Woman's Rights more than anything she wrote. Such beings as these, she said, ought not to find themselves by birth in a place so narrow that by breaking bonds that become outlaws. Horace Catherine Anthony points out in her able work about her. Margaret Fuller was in this sense also an outlaw. She was hedged about Wright's misanthony by a prejudice and misinterpretation, which assumed the character of a social boycott.
She shared the fate of every famous woman from Sappho Onward, who was set an example of emancipation for their sex. Yet the very proportions of Margaret's uncompromising rebellion against the conventions of her time aroused the interest, if not always, the sympathy of those who knew her. And this included the men of letters of her day. Two prominent novelists, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorn, made an interpretation of Margaret's personality the chief concern of one of their works. Each of these writers made his Margaret-inspired character a strange mixture of good and evil. The early 19th century might be intrigued with the concept of intellectual woman, but it could not resist the idea that a woman who had obtained knowledge had tasted her for good and fruit. The setting of Hawthorne's work, the Blyatdale Romance, is the Brook Farm Community near Roxbury, Massachusetts, a socialistic back-to-nature project of the transcendentalists of 1840, which Hawthorne renamed Blyatdale for the purposes of his novel.
Margaret Fuller appears as the central figure, Zenovia, much changed in Hawthorne's romantic imagination, but still recognizably Margaret Fuller. The Brook Farm experiment was a failure, and in the novel, Hawthorne parallels the failure of this utopian venture to establish a true brotherhood among human beings, with a failure of woman's idealistic dream of being accepted on terms of equality with men. We present now a scene arranged from the latter part of Hawthorne's Blyatdale Romance. Blyatdale was no longer what it had been. Everything was suddenly faded. The sunburnt and dried aspect of our woods and pastures beneath the August sky did but imperfectly symbolise the lack of dew and moisture that since yesterday, as it were, had blighted the noble purpose and strong conviction of this little colony of men and women,
who only last spring had set out with such high resolve upon its search for a better system of society. My relations with those I had been closest to at Blyatdale were somewhat strained, though we still clung to the outward forms of friendship. I had quarreled with Hawthorne's worth when I found that he was aiming a death blow at our little project by plotting to obtain, without the knowledge of his fellow-workers, the very ground on which we had planted our community, and by planning to adapt what we had already achieved there to his own aims, for the furtherance of his philanthropic scheme. I knew he could derive the enormous capital essential to his plan from only one source, including Zenovia, and I could not understand how she, with her fine intellect, would certainly surpass that of any woman of the age, would lend herself to such an ignoble purpose. Of course I realised that she was in love with him. She and Hawlingsworth had been constant companions since the earliest days of our little venture. Indeed the entire community had long since set them down as a pair of lovers.
But of late, Hawlingsworth had seemed to avoid Zenovia. She was devoting all his attention to the maiden Priscilla, who alone among the members of our little colony seemed to grow fresher and more spirited, while the rest of us became the more arid and depressed. Zenovia looked anything but pleased with the sudden show of tenderness of Hawlingsworth to Priscilla. But to tell the truth, I saw no occasion to give myself any trouble on her account in this respect. With Zenovia's inward strength and experience of the world, she could not be supposed to need any help of mine. It was for little Priscilla that I was troubled. What would she do when Hawlingsworth turned away from her, for it was certain that she had long since flung her heart in the dust at his feet? That last Sabbath afternoon at Blythedale, the four of us, Hawlingsworth, Zenovia, Priscilla and myself, had wandered forth as was our custom for a ramble in the fields and woods beyond the pasture.
Hawlingsworth, silent and morose, was walking with great strides somewhat in advance of Zenovia and myself. Priscilla was skipping and dancing along, keeping abreast of Hawlingsworth, who occasionally threw a word or glance in her direction in return for some merry sally from herself. When we reached the woods, these two ahead were lost to us from time to time, and Zenovia and I, slowing our pace, began to talk on our two favorite subjects, poetry, I am a poet, and women, Zenovia's special sphere. Zenovia glanced ahead, where for a moment we had a glimpse of Priscilla's white dress, as she flitted along the winding path among the trees. What do you think of our Priscilla now, Miles Coverdale? Is she not worth a verse or two from you? Yes, she deserves some verses, and from a better poet than myself. She is the very picture of New England spring. She is much merrier of late than when she came here. She thinks this place is such a paradise, and all of us, particularly Mr. Hawlingsworth
and myself, such angels, it's quite ridiculous, and provokes one's malice almost to see a creature so happy, especially a feminine creature. Women are always happier than men, I think. You must correct that impression, Coverdale, or I shall think you lack poetic insight. Did you ever see a happy woman in your life? Priscilla is, after all, a very young woman, with little experience of life. How can any woman be happy after she discovers that fate has assigned her but one event, which she must contrive to make the substance of her whole existence? A man has his choice of innumerable events. How you must not forget, Zenovia, that when a woman grows weary of her one event, there are always her household duties to absolve her. Row we of the softer sex take the domestic and indoor part of the business as a matter of course. To bake, to boil, to roast, to fry, to stew, to wash and iron and scrub and sweep, and at our idler intervals to repose ourselves on knitting and sewing.
Just as we do at Blivedale, upon my word, I find very little difference in women's occupations here from those of the outside world. What remedy do you suggest, Zenovia? Well, by and by, perhaps, when our individual adaptations begin to develop themselves here, it may be that some of us are where the petticoat will go afield and leave our weaker brethren to take our places in the kitchen. Indeed, and then I shall set about at once to prove myself one of the stronger brethren. I want no portion of your household duties. But to go back to Priscilla, I, for one, think she knows quite well what her one event in life will be, and is quite happy in the knowing. She is content with woman's lot, if my eyes do not deceive me. Poor child. Perhaps you're right. But I confess, I do not see how any woman can be content to be a soft reflection of a man's more powerful existence. I could not endure it for an instant. I should never marry, if I weren't certain, I should be treated as an equal and be able to keep myself respect and independence.
And what says Hollingsworth to this? Why? Forgive me, Zenovia, but such a close friend as I have been to you cannot help seeing where your interest lies. Hollingsworth well knows my mind upon this subject. Listen, I'll tell you something, Coverdale, though so far it's been a secret between Hollingsworth and myself. Yes. I've returned to Boston, which will not be long. I plan to do a series of lectures on women's rights, only to women, of course, I'm not yet bold enough to try speaking before a mixed audience. That will come later, discussion groups I'll call them. Conversations for all the women eager to learn and to express themselves that I can gather together. Oh, I know I'll probably do most of the talking myself. You know how I love an audience, but I'll try to draw the others out and encourage them to put to use what they've learned. Not that they've been taught a great deal with the superficial education's women receive, but I want them to learn to develop their intellects. I'm tired of being known as a woman who has surpassed her sex, or as the most brilliant woman of the age.
I tell you, Coverdale, there are thousands of women who are eager and anxious to learn more than household duties, or to be the handmaidens of men. Shall you encourage them to demand their political rights as well, Zenovia? Oh, I believe women should have every privilege that man is acquired for himself. But what I'm most greatly concerned with is for the broadest possible development. Intellectually, socially, politically, morally, and emotionally. Yes, I believe women should have emotional rights as well as economic and political rights. Don't you agree with me? I think I do, Zenovia. But I cannot believe that Hollingsworth would countenance these things. No, since you've quarreled with him, you've grown unfair to him. What makes you say this? I don't believe that Hollingsworth would tolerate one instant any opinion which varied an ay out of from his own. Why? Nay, let me speak. I believe this man to be a supreme egotist who has become so bound up in the fervorance of his own philanthropic scheme that not only would he not tolerate any idea at variance with his own, he would not allow any man or woman to be his friend who would not sacrifice
himself completely to this one end of his and minister to his terrible egotism. I know this from experience, Zenovia. Hollingsworth is so consumed by his passion for reform that he has nothing left to spare for tolerance, for love of God or man, scarcely for individual attachment. Give him but silent admiration, as does wise little Priscilla, nod yes to everything he says, and help him realize his dream by devoting your life to him and doing as he bids every step of the way. This is what Hollingsworth demands. Ah, you are bitter, Covedale. Well I'll forgive you that since he has turned from you. But you don't understand. It's through these lectures and my books and writings that I can help him most. His plan needs money. Right. Ah, yes, you don't yet know that I am poor. Poor.
Poor old believes that I am wealthy. And so I was, I believed until three days ago, but now I've learned my money has been cut off from me. Not how? Oh, no matter how it's not important, but I am penniless and Hollingsworth will have no fortune at his disposal for the furtherance of his plan. Does he know this? Indeed he does. That does much to explain his frame of mind of late. Of course it was a blow to him, but he will rally. That's why I'm so anxious to get back to town, begin working again. But his recent strange preoccupation with Priscilla, does this not trouble you? Trouble me? Oh, Covedale. Well Priscilla is a child and a doering child. She follows him about like a devoted dog, and every time he opens his mouth she gasps and wonder. Hollingsworth loves her as a brother might. He considers it his duty to take care of her. I suppose because it is so apparent she would never be able to take care of herself. And she's so happy always.
She cheers him in this black mood, he's been in. And is this all, xenobia, awful? Priscilla is not such a child as you believe. Do you not see that such a man as Hollingsworth, in his present state, and I turn to such a woman as Priscilla for consolation? Do you not fear that... Not since Covedale, you're a presumptuous fool. Do you think that Hollingsworth might decide Hollingsworth couldn't spend his life with an inferior? Zanobia, I have made you angry. Believe me, I spoke only as your friend. But... Oh, quiet, here they are, just around the turn beside the great rock. Ah, yes. They're waiting for us. Now you shall see, Miles, Covedale, that Hollingsworth has made of no such stuff as you assume. I'll show you, Covedale. Come. Let's join them. Well, Hollingsworth, Priscilla, weary already from your ramblings. Master Hollingsworth was tired. He likes to sit here by Elliot's pulpit.
It seems as if a place is any other to spend a Sabbath afternoon. Join us, Zanobia, Covedale, and if it suits you. Yes, do sit down, Zanobia and chat a while. Master Covedale, please sit down. Thank you, Priscilla. Well, Hollingsworth, will you not climb up into the pulpit and preach to us today as you have so often done before about your project? No, not today, Covedale. I fear that I'm not in the proper frame of mind. Ah, to be a man. To be asked to make a speech upon one's favourite topic, and to know the luxury of being able to decline because one is not in the proper frame of mind. I vowed excites my envy that I cannot speak to the world at large, but must confine myself to addressing women when I lecture, simply because I happen to be the female sex. Suppose I would amount to pulpit now and make a speech this moment. What would you now, Zanobia, become a stump or atress? Why not, my friend. Women deserve such freedom, surely. Yes, if I live another year, I shall lift up my voice in behalf of women's wider liberty
and from a stump, if necessary. The eloquent Zanobia. Behold, here is a woman. You smile, Miles, Covedale. Have I not said the proper thing? Or do you find the thought of women's liberty ridiculous? Me. I will give you leaves, Zanobia, to fling your utmost scorn upon me, if you ever hear me utter sentiment unfavorable to the widest liberty which woman has yet dreamed of. I would give her all she asks, and add a great deal more, which men, if they were generous and wise, would grant of their own free motion. For instance, I should love dearly for the next thousand years, at least, to have all government devolve into the hands of women. I hate to be ruled by my own sex, it wounds my pride, but how sweet, how free, the generous courtesy with which I would kneel before a woman ruler. Did you might? Any of you might, if the woman were young and beautiful, but how if you were sixty in a fright?
Ah, it is you that rate womanhood low, but let me go on. In the better order of things, I would also grant that the Ministry of Souls may be left in charge of women, the gates of the blessed city will be thronged with the multitude that enter in when that day comes. The task belongs to woman, God meant it for her. He has endowed her with the religious sentiment in its utmost depth and purity refined from that gross intellectual alloy. Stop it, Coverdale, look what you're doing to Priscilla. Why? What is it to Priscilla? Why this trouble in your eyes? I cannot think that this is true. I'm sure I do not wish it to be true. Poor child, she is the type of womanhood such as man has spent centuries in making it. He's never content unless he can degrade himself by stooping toward what he loves, denying us our rights he betrays even more blindness to his own interests than disregard of ours. Is this true? Master Hollingsworth, is it all true that Master Coverdale and Zanobia have been saying? No, Priscilla, they have neither have been spoken one true word yet.
Ah, Hollingsworth, that is ungrateful. You despise woman. despise her? No. She is the most admirable handiwork of God in her true place and character. Her place is at man's side. Her office, that of the sympathizer, the unreserved, unquestioning believer, the recognition with hailed in every other manner but given in pity through woman's heart, unless man should utterly lose faith in himself. The echo of God's own voice pronouncing it is well done. All the separate action of woman is false, foolish, vain, destructive of her own best and holiest qualities. Man is a wretch without woman, but woman is a monster, without man as a acknowledge principle. As true as I once had a mother whom I loved, were there any possible prospect of woman's taking the social stand which some of them poor miserable, abortive creatures who only dream of such things because they have missed woman's peculiar happiness?
If there was a chance of their retaining the end which these petty coated monstrosities have in view, I would call upon my own sex to use its physical force to scourge them back within their proper bounds, but it will not be needful. The heart of true womanhood knows where its own sphere is and never seeks to stray beyond it. Come, Priscilla, let us leave this place, and it is not fit that you should hear such sentiments as these two have been uttering. In heaven's name, Hollingsworth, what does aid you, Coverdale and myself spoke half in jest, you do not jest in Obia, but why do you speak thus of a sudden, you've never done so before within my hearing and you've often heard my views express? No, I have not spoken my mind to you before, but I have heard and judged you, and now I will hear no more of what you have to say. Come, little Priscilla, let us go. This is very good.
What strange beings men are to bring a woman to their secret tribunals and judge and condemn her unheard, and then bid her go forth without a sentence. Priscilla, are you coming? Oh, Master Hollingsworth! What means this Hollingsworth? Do we part so? And why not? What is there further to be said between us? Well, perhaps nothing. But we have come many, many times before to this grey rock, and we have talked very softly here among the whispering of the birch trees. And now in return for all these pleasant hours, I desire to ask you a few questions before these witnesses. First, did you suppose me wealthy? On that point, I have had the opinion which the world held. And your acquaintance with the fact that I am not is of the same date as my own. You are aware also of the disposition which I purpose making of the larger portion of my imaginary opulence. I am. I was willing to realize your dream freely, fully, and heedless though it should prove
the ruin of my fortune. And while I was so willing and believed that I could do so, you valued me, or seemed to. Now I am nothing. One other question. Do you love this girl, Priscilla? Cineopia. Had you asked me that question, but a short time since, I should have told you no. I love Priscilla as a brother, might. What is your answer now? As well declared thus, as in any other way, I do love her. Now God do judge between us, which of us two is most mortally offended him. At least I am a woman, with every fault it may be that a woman ever had, but still a woman. A creature who only a little change of earthly fortune might have made me all a woman can be. But how is it with you, are you a man, no but a monster, a cold, heartless, self-beginning and self-ending piece of mechanism?
With what then do you charge me, show me one selfish end? It is all self, nothing but self. I see it now, I am awake, disenchanted, disenthralled, you have embodied yourself in a project, see whether it has brought you. Once you aim to death blow at this scheme of a pure and higher life, at our community here and blind there, then because Covedale could not be your slave, you threw him ruthlessly away, and you took me too into your plan, as long as there was any hope of my being of use to you, and now fling me aside again. But foremost, in the blackest of your sins, you are ready to sacrifice this girl whom you loved, and you knew worshiped you in order that you might obtain money for your project. This is our woman's view, our woman's whose whole sphere of action is in the heart, and you can conceive of no higher, no wider one. Be silent, you know neither man nor woman, yet most of me said in your behalf is that a great heart has been ruined in your breast by what you deem your noble purpose in life.
Now leave me, you've done with me and I with you. Priscilla, come. Zenovia? Ah, Priscilla, he is waiting for you. Go to him. Oh, Zenovia, do you forgive me? Poor little thing. You've been my evil fate, but there never was a babe with less strength to do an injury. Me thinks you have a melancholy lot before you, sitting all alone in yawn, wide, cheerless heart, wherefore ought you know the fire which you have kindled my soon go out? Oh, the thought makes me shiver for you. What will you do, Priscilla, when you find no spark among the ashes? Oh, I shall die, Zenovia. That was well said. There is all a woman in your little compass, my poor child. And while go with him and live, good-bye, Zenovia. Zenovia.
Oh, is it you, Miles Coveday? Ah, I perceive what you're about. You're turning this whole affair into a ballad. Oh, hush, Zenovia, heaven knows what an ache is in my soul. Is genuine tragedy, is it not? And you're willing to allow, perhaps, that I've had hard measure. But it's a woman's doom, and I've deserved it like a woman. So let there be no pity, as on my part, there should be no complaint. But Mr. Coveday, by all means, write this ballad, and turn your sympathy to good account. Yes, for the moral, distill it into the final stanza in a drop of bitter honey. What shall the moral be, Zenovia? Oh. A very old one will serve the purpose. There are no new truths. Much as we've prided ourselves on finding some, a moral, why this? That in the battlefield of life, the downright stroke that would fall only on a man's headpiece is sure to light out a woman's heart. His wisdom, therefore, is to keep out of the conflict.
Or this, that the whole universe, her own sex and yours, and providence, and destiny to boot, makes common cause against the woman who swerves one hair's breadth out of the beaten track. But this last is to stern a moral. Cannot we soften it a little? Do it at your own peril, not on my responsibility. After all, he has flung away whatever it has served him better than the poor, pale flower he kept. What can Priscilla do for him, but warmth into his heart when he should be chilled with frozen hopes, strengthen his hands when they're weary with much doing in no performance? No. Only favor him with her blind, instinctive love, and hang her little puny weakness for a drag upon his arm. Oh, will he never and many an hour of darkness need that intellectual sympathy which he might have had for me?
Poor Hollingsworth, where will he find it now? Hollingsworth needs no sympathy, he has a heart of ice. Do him no wrong, presume not to estimate a man like Hollingsworth? Miles Coverdale. Wales and Obia, can I do you any service? Very little. But it's my purpose, as you may well imagine, to remove myself from Blithedale. Woman in my position, you understand, feels scarcely at her ease among her former friends. She would mortify herself, I suppose, with foolish notions of having sacrificed the honor of her sex at the foot of proud, condemnatious man, poor womanhood with its rights and wrongs. Here will be mad of my course of lectures at the idea of which you smiled a while ago. The rights of women, women possess no rights, well no matter, but I shall depart without seeing Hollingsworth again, I entreat you to be a messenger between us. Willingly is an Obia, what is the message?
True, what is it, after all I hardly know, tell him anything you please, tell him he is murdered me, tell him I'll haunt him, and bid him, no, bid, Briscilla, wear this flower for an Obia's sake, she will make a soft and gentle a wife as the various bluebeard could desire. No, farewell, Miles Coverdale. Zenobia, wither are you going? No matter where. I'm weary of this place, sick to death of playing at philanthropy and progress, I'm done with it. Blythedale must find another woman to superintend the laundry. It was indeed a foolish dream, yet it gave us some pleasant summer days in bright hopes while they lasted. You can do no more, nor will it avail us to shed tears over a broken bubble. Here is my hand, Coverdale, farewell.
How cold your hand is, what can be the reason? The extremities die first, they say, and so you kiss this poor despised, rejected hand. Well, my dear friend, I thank you. You have reserved your homage for the fallen, once more, farewell. This has been a specially arranged radio version of a scene from Nathaniel Hawthorne's Blythedale Romance, which was published in 1852. That was part seven of the American woman in fact in fiction from colonial times to the present day, a series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard. The cast included Charles Levy, Martin Punch, Virginia Maynard, and Yolanda Cortrite. Engineering was by David L. Talcott. The American woman in fact in fiction was produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA
Berkeley, California, under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. This is the NEB Radio Network.
- A nineteenth century Minerva
- Producing Organization
- pacifica radio
- KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Margaret Fuller; Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance.
- Series Description
- Thirteen half-hour programs illustrating with dramatization the changing status of women in America from colonial times to the present day, plus a one-hour panel discussion on modern-day problems.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Director: Maynard, Virginia
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-19-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “American woman in fact and fiction; A nineteenth century Minerva,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 28, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-w37kv50h.
- MLA: “American woman in fact and fiction; A nineteenth century Minerva.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-w37kv50h>.
- APA: American woman in fact and fiction; A nineteenth century Minerva. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-w37kv50h