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

By Melissa J. Homestead

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

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If, as Terhune describes the relationship between Hart and Phemie, implicitly invoking the language of master and slave, “he was her legal proprietor” (p. 296) – and she was thus his property, his “heifer” (p. 235) – could Phemie (or any other married woman author, since married women were little more than property in marriage) own literary property? Although the answer to these questions is a qualified no, it is precisely dispossession rather than secure possession that characterized authorship in nineteenth-century America.

For the sake of consistency and to accurately reflect her legal identity in her engagements with the law of copyright in the period after her marriage to the Reverend Edward Payson Terhune, I will refer to her as “Terhune” throughout. She and her works are included in Nina Baym, Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America, 1820–1870 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978); Mary Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); and Elizabeth Moss, Domestic Novelists in the Old South: Defenders of Southern Culture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).

Is, in many respects, precisely similar to that of the negro slave. She can make no contract and hold no property; whatever she inherits or earns becomes at that moment the property of her husband, who can take and use her wages without consulting her. Her children are not (in law) her children, but his – he can separate them from her, and put them under the guardianship of any other woman he may choose. Though he acquired a fortune through her, or though she earn [sic] a fortune through her talents, he is sole master of it, and she cannot draw a penny.

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