Separate Spheres" Origin Discussion/Nov 1997


Separate Spheres" Origin Discussion/Nov 1997


Query from Laura Hazelwood <> 04 Nov 1997

I am trying to find out when the term "separate spheres" was first used by historians.

Some sources such as Plantation Households, by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Plantation Mistress by Catherine Clinton use the term, but do not tell us where the term itself originated.

In "Cult of Domesticity by Barbara Welter (American Quarterly, XVIII (1966), 151-74), Welter mentions George Burnap and his lectures on "The Sphere and Duties of Woman."( 5th ed., Baltimore, 1854, pg 47). Which I have not been able to acquire.

I guess that my question is, when did this begin to be used by historians in relation to women's history, and in particular to Antebellum Southern women. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

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From Connie Wawruck-Hemmett 04 Nov 1997

I also have an interest in this area, but what I have been looking for are any works that deal with visual depiction of women's space. So far I've been unable to find anything on this. Can anyone out there help Laura and me, or at least one or the other of us?

From Tiffany Dziurman 04 Nov 1997

I have done alot of research on private vs. public spheres as a graduate student at Wayne State Univ. I have been able to trace historians' use of the term "separate spheres" as a description of social behavior to at least the late 1960s and 1970s. But the term has been in use much, much longer. There are a few 19th c sources which refer to "separate Spheres", "women's spheres", etc.

Take a look at a Mary A. Livermore autobiography, _My Story of the War: A Woman's Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience as Nurse in the Union Army_(Hartford, Conn., A.D. Worthington & Co., 1890); the papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony will most likely refer to the phrase, as will the papers of the Woman's :Loyal National League, formed by Stanton and Anthony in 1863. Also, any ladies' magazines from the 19thc will probably mention the term; in fact you will probably find articles with the term in the title. It was a fairly common term used by both men and women in the 19thc.

Other secondary sources include:

Clinton, Catherine, Ed. _Half Sisters of History: Southern Women and the American Past_(1994)

Degler, Carl _At Odds: women and the Family on America From Revolution to the Present_

Evans, Sara _Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America_(1989)

Faust, Drew Gilpin _Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War_(1996)

Lebsock, Suzanne _The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860_(1984)

From Diana Laulainen-Schein 04 Nov 1997

Linda Kerber traces the historiography of this term in "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place", which is part of her _Toward an Intellectual History of Women_. She traces it back to Alexis de Tocqueville's _Democracy in America_(1840), but if I were you I'd read the whole chapter myself.

From JoAnn Castagna 04 Nov 1997

Linda Kerber...also discussed in the same essay the movement from the separate spheres trop to (smith-rosenberg) the "female world" trope and so on.