The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories Sarah Orne Jewett and Feminism

The nineteenth century was an important time for women in Europe and the United States, who were beginning to work at industrial jobs and campaign for the right to vote. Women would not achieve suffrage in the United States until after World War I, but the suffragist movement and related causes were building momentum during Jewett's lifetime. Jewett was in favor of female suffrage herself, although her primary political interest was in reform for women laborers. While The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories is not an explicitly political work, it has provoked much discussion from scholars with different views about its status as a feminist text.

Over the years, feminist scholars have found Sarah Orne Jewett a compelling figure. Some, including Sarah W. Sherman, have argued that until recently, Jewett's text were somewhat ignored in her own time and afterwards because of her gender. Marjorie Pryse has pointed out that few anthologies of American literature included Jewett's work before the 1970s. More recently, there has been a backlash against Jewett scholars who hold her work up as examples of repressed texts; in the 1990s, multiple scholars noted the positive reception that Jewett's stories received when they were first published.

While some critics choose to focus on Jewett's biography and publishing history, others write about the content of her texts. Several academics, including Pryse and Terry Heller, have characterized Jewett's loose, digressive structure as a particularly female form of discourse. Many of these scholars have also noted the prominence of strong female characters - such as Joanna Todd, Mrs. Todd, and the narrator - who choose to live alone or with other women, rather than submitting to patriarchal family structures.