The antislavery web of connection
Levy, Valerie Domenica
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Published annually from 1839 to 1858 and featuring fifteen volumes in total, Maria Weston Chapman’s Liberty Bell was the longest-lived abolitionist gift-book. Though modest in appearance, since the Boston abolitionists had limited funds with which to work, the gift-book was anything but ordinary. Not only did it boast some of the world’s most renowned and respected thinkers and writers of the day-from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Martineau-but its literary value made it aesthetically notable as well as politically rousing. In refutation of the lingering attitude that abolitionist short fiction, poetry, and essays are often too vociferous to be considered "good," The Liberty Bell exemplifies the ways in which abolitionist writing produced important literary as well as social changes.|This comprehensive study of Chapman’s antislavery publication demonstrates how The Liberty Bell brought women from the hearth to the podium and from the pen to the editor’s desk, how it popularized the sentimental tradition through the revolutionary prose of radical women and unconventional men, how it broadened the scope of already-stable genres such as the elegiac tradition, and how it expanded the domestic and national into the foreign at a time when gift-books were "aggressively nationalistic" (Thompson 160). Maria Weston Chapman and the gift-book that she masterminded were not without their flaws, however. Thus, this dissertation also seeks to understand the gaps between ideology and action, and word and deed, especially in respect to the issue of race and how the presence (or absence) of black writers effected the overall messages of immediate emancipation and racial integration that The Liberty Bell sought to espouse.