Mates, Marriage, and Motherhood: Feminist Visions in Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces

Gloria T. RandleMichigan State University
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall 1999), 215-233

This article reads Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces (1900) as not only uncovering what is political in the African American domestic but also considering female-female psychological dynamics as a locus of political reproduction and potential reform. The essay focuses, first, on the way Grace Montfort’s narrative offers a critique of the cult of true womanhood. The paper then turns to the ways the discrepant relations of Ma Smith to her children William and Dora replicate gender inequities, both psychologically and socially, though they also foster unconscious resistance in Dora. Finally, the paper uncovers Dora and Sappho’s immanently Sapphic relationship with each other—a relationship that provides a subversive alternative to the marriages with which the novel more predictably concludes.

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]