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Women and poverty in American writing

 
 
Reply Thu 15 Jan, 2004 10:36 am
There are two books that most American women read, generally early in their lives: Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.

Alcott opens her book with Meg, the oldest of the sisters, complaining about being poor. Much of the book is about the sisters, their mother and their neighbors confronting poverty with varying degrees of success. And while Scarlet O'Hara's fortunes fluctuate and she ultimately becomes wealthy through marriage, Scarlett suffers from poverty and hunger.

Both of these books center on the Civil War but it is interesting that two of the most popular books by and for women in American letters (albeit neither one is truly literary) deal with women and poverty.

I think about Meg's words all the time but most of all at Christmas. What about these books? How do you feel about women and poverty? What about women today?
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Thu 15 Jan, 2004 10:55 am
Haven't read these books, so I should probably butt out, but...

During that era, women didn't have many economic options. Get married, or what? Jobs they could apply for were ill-paying. I can imagine why money was such an issue for those characters.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Fri 16 Jan, 2004 11:34 am
D'Artagnan,
During that time, teaching became a profession for women, promoted by the feminists of the day, because women could be paid less.

I have been unable to obtain full time self sustaining employment after a divorce and 20 years of being a full time mother. I have actually wondered whether my fault might be living in a culture of poverty. I have two winter coats, one is 13 years old and the other is 11; my boots are 14 years old, while a pair that is only nine years old just sprung a leak. These garments are no longer attractive but I almost have a pride in them and wear them from necessity. I wonder if my very willingness to endure and to make things last put me in the same place as the March Sisters.

All of this shows to go that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Fri 16 Jan, 2004 12:32 pm
Point well taken, plainoldme, re how things haven't changed as much as we sometimes think...
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