Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fanny Kemble & the Microhistory

Having talked about microhistories as well as Jill Lepore extensively in Mr. Quigley's APUSH class last year, I think I did have a better context for the reading and format of Mr. Quigley's presentation. I think the presentation was really well prepared for and well presented. I especially liked how he tied the story to larger issues, almost as an allegory.
Here's the thing: this is weird, I guess, but hearing about all Fanny Kemble did for Women's rights pales in comparison to what she did for slaves, which makes sense because obviously the predicament of African Americans at the time was much worse than that of females, but it just makes me think. I know that Women's issues are a real thing and that we do face discrimination today, but it just seems so insignificant compared to the plight of black americans, and the racism they still experience today. We hardly ever see women being victims of police brutality, and I'm pretty sure the wage gap is much larger between races than genders. I don't really see Fanny Kemble as a fighter for women's rights- I think she more advocated fair treatment of slaves. She can be considered a feminist icon because she influenced many in an abolitionist field mostly dominated by men, but I don't see her ideologies as particularly feminist in nature. This is portrayed a little differently in the two different articles we read, though: the Catherine Clinton article does a lot more to portray her as an advocate for women's rights. I would say her biggest accomplishment in this field was pointing out the hypocrisy of white slaveowners who sleep with and bear children by their female slaves.
Anyway, I enjoyed her writing a lot- I'm always a fan of sarcasm. I though it was interesting how she was often described as sad, even by the slave boy who wrote about her-- I wonder if her sadness urged her to take action or if her sadness was a result of her futile attempts to help.
I like the parallel Mr. Quigley drew between Kemble and her husband and the conflict of the South and the North, with the irreconcilable differences that eventually forced them to split. I also thought the details about the daughters were interesting, with the older one agreeing more with Kemble and the younger with Butler.
What I can say about Fanny Kemble was that she was very brave, motivated by strong values and love for humankind. She went against what her husband said in an era where that was unorthodox. I watched this Ted Talk once by Philip Zimbardo about the origin of evil, and he defined a hero not as someone with special powers to create justice, but as someone whose actions could have been performed by anyone, but who stepped up when nobody else would- I think this fits Kemble well.


  1. Nice work Shawn!!!! I too thought she was very brave. What a woman!!!!!

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