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Walt Whitman and Nineteenth-Century Women Reformers, Walt Whitman and Nineteenth-Century Women Reformers, 0817308938, 0-8173-0893-8, 978-0-8173-0893-3, 9780817308933, , , Walt Whitman and Nineteenth-Century Women Reformers, 081735753X, 0-8173-5753-X, 978-0-8173-5753-5, 9780817357535, , , Walt Whitman and Nineteenth-Century Women Reformers, 0817387269, 0-8173-8726-9, 978-0-8173-8726-6, 9780817387266,

Walt Whitman and Nineteenth-Century Women Reformers

Quality Paper
2013. 312 pp.
11 illus
Price:  $34.95 s
E Book
2013. 312 pp.
11 illus
Price:  $34.95 d

Ceniza provides a dramatic rereading of Walt Whitman's poetry through the lens of 19th-century feminist culture
Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers documents Whitman's friendships with women during the 1850s, the decade of Whitman's most creative period. The book reveals startling connections between the first three editions of Leaves of Grass and the texts generated by the women he knew during this period, many of whom were radical activists in the women's rights movement.

Sherry Ceniza argues that Whitman's editions of Leaves became progressively more radically 'feminist' as he followed the women's rights movement during the 1850s and that he was influenced by what he called the 'true woman of the new aggressive type . . . woman under the new dispensation.' Ceniza documents the progression of the National Woman's Rights movement through the lives and writings of three of its leaders- Abby Hills Price, Paulina Wright Davis, and Ernestine L. Rose. By juxtaposing the texts written by these women with Leaves, Ceniza shows that Whitman used many of the same arguments and rhetorical gestures as his female activist friends.
The book also discusses the influence of women engaged in women's rights outside the National Woman's Rights organization. And Ceniza's opening chapter is devoted to a fresh interpretation of the life and thought of another strong-minded woman who influenced the poet's writing-Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Walt Whitman's mother.


Sherry Ceniza is Associate Professor of English at Texas Tech University.

"Leaves of Grass is essentially a woman's book: the women do not know it, but every now and then a woman shows that she knows it: it speaks out the necessities, its cry is the cry of the right and wrong of the woman sex- of the woman first of all, of the facts of creation first of all- of the feminine: speaks out loud: warns, encourages, persuades, points the way."
—Walt Whitman

"Ceniza has written the premier study of Whitman and the culture of 19th-century feminism."
—Ezra Greenspan, University of South Carolina

“Ceniza’s study provides the fullest account yet of Whitman’s relation to the American feminists of midcentury. . . . Ceniza’s book deals with . . . questions from a feminist position that clearly admires Whitman profoundly. She has made excellent use of archival material, uncovering a wealth of private or little-known comments on Whitman’s work by leading American feminists of the mid–nineteenth century. Ultimately a study in social history, Ceniza’s work will enable a significant reappraisal of Whitman and ‘the woman question.’”
American Literature

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature, 1996