Martha Bradstreet and the “Epithet of ‘Woman’”: A Story of Land, Libel, Litigation, and Justifying “Unwomanly” Behavior in the Early Republic
A Writing History Workshop with Michael Blaakman
Thursday, January 26
In 1824, Martha Bradstreet, a woman of distinguished pedigree but limited means, filed thirty-five suits in federal court to reclaim a lost inheritance: a vast tract of land in and around Utica, New York. This microhistory reconstructs Bradstreet’s struggle, including her dramatic divorce, her embroilment in malice suits, her campaign to prove title against a phalanx of alleged squatters, and her crusade to impeach a federal judge. Along the way, the paper analyzes the strategic ways that Bradstreet justified her “unwomanly” actions, in an effort to better understand how women resolved the dissonances between lived reality and prescriptive gender ideology in nineteenth-century America.
Come join us for a discussion of Michael’s paper, and of the issues related to characterization, the balance of narrative and argument, and the uses and shortcomings of microhistory. We hope to see you Thursday!