help needed on 19th Century gender nomenclature
JAMES A. LANDAU Netscape. Just the Net You Need.
JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Tue Feb 12 16:52:58 UTC 2008
My daughter, who is at the University of Chicago, needs help on the following:
In the writing of my B.A. thesis, I've come across two puzzles
of 19th-century nomenclature that neither I nor my preceptor
know the answers to. Since the answer to these questions
greatly changes the nature of my conclusion, I would really
like to know the answer. I think these questions are out of
your field of expertise, but perhaps someone you correspond
with would know?
All of these questions are referring to documents from the
1893 World Columbian Exposition and the World's Congress
1. In the late 19th century, did women ever go by their
initials? Would "Harriet Beecher Stowe" ever have been
abbreviated as "H.B. Stowe", or Elizabeth Cady Stanton as
"E.C. Stanton"? If women's names were abbreviated with
initials, would a "Mrs." always be included before said initials
It seems like that doesn't happen, and if there's a
gender-neutral prefix like "Rev" in front of initials, then
it's still always a man, while women are referenced with a
female prefix. But I'd like to know for certain.
2. While reading through the speeches given at the World's
Congresses, it became fairly clear very early on that when
speakers referred to "men", they were referring to men alone;
when speakers meant "men and women", they would say "men and
women"; when speakers wanted to refer to everyone, they said
"men, women, and children".
This pattern has been consistent throughout all of the
speeches I've read; off the top of my head, I don't know of a
19th-century grammar book that would tell me whether this is a
hard and fast rule, but it seems to be so. "Man" does not seem
to be an inclusive or collective noun, the way it is often
assumed to be today.
With that being said, how should I interpret the fact that the
World Congress Auxiliary's motto was "not things, but men; not
matter, but mind"?
Yes, women were present; yes, they spoke to presumably mixed
audiences (in the transcripts of the different congresses I've
read, only two men have ever been mentioned in the women-led
speeches; both times, they have been either previous speakers
or chairmen of the audience). But at the same time, women were
restricted to speaking on topics only in how they affected
women; no general statements on the topic alone, but the
woman's perspective for other women.
A friend of mine suggested the "man" in the motto was used in
the Declaration of Independence type of way; I interpret the
Declaration, at the time of its writing, to have been intended
only for men.
I realize these questions sound like semantics, but they do
deeply change the interpretation I have of the Congresses.
iIf all initials without prefixes refer to men, then there are
absolutely NO mixed boards. And if all otherwise-unqualified
"men" refer to males alone -- this changes the purpose of the
Congresses. It makes women's inclusion, rather than a
preordained conclusion, something of an afterthought or a
James A. Landau
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