A New England Nun

Louisa Ellis’ Freedom Within a Cage College

The question of freedom in the character Louisa Ellis in Mary E. Wilkins’ “A New England Nun” is one of ambiguity and argument. On one side, she manages to find her own small freedom in life within this society that restricts women to standards created by the ideal of “True Womanhood”. On the other hand, that “freedom” she finds still seems to contain her within the constraints of those standards. Even though she finds her personal freedom within certain confinements of “True Womanhood”, she has managed to pick and chose which aspects of it she wishes to follow and which she wishes to avoid. Louisa Ellis has found a way around the submissiveness required of a woman in “True Womanhood” which shows her subversion of the patriarchal standard of the era, thus allowing her her personal freedom.

In order to assess what makes Louisa free or confined by “True Womanhood”, one must look at what “True Womanhood” is. In Barbara Welter’s essay, “The True Cult of Womanhood: 1820-1860” she comments that these “attributes of True Womanhood, by which a woman judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors and society could be divided into four cardinal virtues--piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity” (Welter 152). How do...

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