To My Dear Friend: Gender and Sexism in 19th Century Autograph Albums

by Jessica Watkins
English; Gender & Women's Studies
Faculty advisor: Dr. Annamaria Formichella-Elsden

Last fall for my English Senior Seminar I explored autograph albums in the mid-to-late 19th century in the United States to see how the albums reinforced gender roles. For this I used an original autograph album from within my family, as well as several outside resources on autograph albums to support my claims. I examined the album through the lenses of new historicism and feminism. I found that autograph albums were used to oppress women by reinforcing gender stereotypes. Men used the albums to keep women in the home, where, as it was commonly believed during the 19th century, women belonged. It was thought that if women could fill an album with signatures and trinkets from friends, they would be happy housewives with memories of a contented past to look back upon.