Femininity, Science, and Religion on Tour in Almira Phelps’s Caroline Westerley (1833)

Sharon Halevi, University of Haifa
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2023), 67-92

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps’s first adolescent girls’ novel Caroline Westerley: or, the Young Traveller from Ohio (1833) is a travelogue of the Great Lakes and the Hudson River valley. Given Phelps’s educational and scientific work, it has been viewed as another effort to disseminate scientific knowledge. This article argues first that Phelps situated her novel within the context of a highly popular girls’ tour, which held considerable personal and ideological meaning. Second, it maintains that Phelps used the novel to reflect upon models of femininity, arguing in favor of one in which the life of the mind, including a lifelong interest in science and religion, occupied a central place, and against one focused on consumerism and the body. The article closes with a reflection on the ways in which Phelps’s ideas regarding opposing models of femininity fit with Joan Brumberg’s argument regarding the rise of consumerism and its effect on girls’ bodies at the turn of the century. The article is based on a reading of Phelps’s fictional text alongside her nonfictional text Lectures to Young Ladies (1833).

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]