American Women Authors and Literary Property, 1822-1869 by Melissa J. Homestead

By Melissa J. Homestead

Via an exploration of ladies authors'engagements with copyright and married girls estate legislation, American girls authors and Literary estate, 1822-1869, revises nineteenth-century American literary background, making women's authorship and copyright legislation important. utilizing case reviews of 5 well known fiction writers Catharine Sedgwick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Fanny Fern, Augusta Evans, and Mary Virginia Terhunee, abode indicates how the convergence of copyright and coverture either fostered and limited white women's corporation as authors. girls authors exploited their prestige as nonproprietary topics to virtue through adapting themselves to a copyright legislations that privileged readers entry to literature over authors estate rights. Homesteads' inclusion of the Confederacy during this paintings sheds gentle at the centrality of copyright to nineteenth-century American nationalisms and at the strikingly varied development of author-reader family below U.S. and accomplice copyright legislation.

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A “wife” did have a separate, if limited, legal status under the law as a person, and slave women had no access to that legal status. Stowe’s dramatic and damning summary of the law presents the effects of the common law of coverture in its purest form, but as Stowe also acknowledges elsewhere in her article, statutory reform of the common law had been in progress for decades by 1869 on a state-by-state basis – the first wave of reform occurred primarily in the 1840s, and such reforms were largely complete by 1870 in the northern states and by the 1880s in the South.

The copyright registration process was (and is) largely formal and administrative, with federal authorities conducting no 28 Amy Dru Stanley, “Conjugal Bonds and Wage Labor: Rights of Contract in the Age of Emancipation,” Journal of American History 75, no. 2 (1988): 495. , 497. P1: NPK/ICD 0521853826c01 0 521 85382 6 CUNY038B/Homestead July 28, 2005 16:15 34 American Women Authors and Literary Property, 1822–1869 examination of the legitimacy of claims by the registrant, who simply paid a small fee and presented a printed title page of the work before publication of the work as a whole.

Derby’s reminiscence about how Augusta Jane Evans’s novel Macaria came to be “pirated” in the North during the Civil War reveals how Northern readers constructed Evans as an author after the South’s defeat. However, interpretation of and theorizing concerning the cultural meanings of women’s authorship and texts should be built on research into contemporaneous sources rather than on anecdote alone – my reconstruction of Stowe’s role as a plaintiff in Stowe v. Thomas uncovers the ways that Stowe and others understood her agency as the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin quite differently than the “God wrote the book” anecdote suggests, and Derby’s tale conceals far more than it reveals about Evans’s proprietary activities during the war.

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