Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Golden Cables of Sympathy

Golden Cables of Sympathy: The Transatlantic Sources of Nineteenth-Century Feminism

Margaret H. McFadden
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j123
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Golden Cables of Sympathy
    Book Description:

    An intricate network of contacts developed among women in Europe and North America over the course of the nineteenth century. These women created virtual communities through communication, support, and a shared ideology. Forged across boundaries of nationality, language, ethnic origin, and even class, these connections laid the foundation for the 1888 International Council of Women and formed the beginnings of an international women's movement. This matrix extended throughout England and the Continent and included Scandinavia and Finland. In a remarkable display of investigative research, Margaret McFadden describes the burgeoning avenues of communication in the nineteenth century that led to an explosion in the number of international contacts among women. This network blossomed because of increased travel opportunities; advances in women's literacy and education; increased activity in the temperance, abolitionist, and peace reform movements; and the emergence of female evangelicals, political revolutionaries, and expatriates. Particular attention is paid to five women whose decades of work helped give birth to the women's movement by century's end. These ""mothers of the matrix"" include Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of the United States, Anna Doyle Wheeler of Ireland, Fredrika Bremer of Sweden, and Frances Power Cobbe of England. Despite their philosophic differences, these leaders recognized the value of friendship and advocacy among women and shared an affinity for bringing together people from different cultural settings. McFadden demonstrates without question that the traditions of transatlantic female communication are far older than most historians realize and that the women's movement was inherently international. No other scholar has painted so complete a picture of the golden cables that linked the women who saw the Atlantic and the borders within Europe as bridges rather than barriers to improving their status.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4991-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: On Beginning to Tell a “Best-Kept Secret”
    (pp. 1-14)

    The first dependable transatlantic telegraph cable link was completed in 1866. Stretching from Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, to Valentia Island and Queenstown in Ireland, it culminated an engineering and financial effort of almost mythic dimensions; the participating steamships bore such names asAgammemnon, Gorgon, Valorous, Terrible,andNiagara. Directing the Anglo-American Telegraph Company were economic titans such as Sir Daniel Gooch (chairman of the Great Western Railway Company), Henry Ford Barclay, and the legendary Cyrus W. Field of New York City.¹ Their submarine link destroyed Western Union’s audacious project to build a land telegraph line from British Columbia across the Bering...

  5. 1 Weaving the Delicate Web: Lucretia Mott and Succeeding Generations
    (pp. 15-32)

    The great Lucretia Mott offers a superb demonstration of the validity of metaphors of cables, webs, networks, and matrices. Indeed, her legacy of connections shows the impact a single well-placed individual could make. The 1840 World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, which began with a futile two-day battle over the seating of the American female delegates (the opposition was led by Manchester Quaker Joseph Sturge), was a vivid watershed of women’s internationality. Lucretia Mott was at the center of the transatlantic controversy, since her status as a female Quaker preacher had already divided American Quakers in the Hicksite split. The fact...

  6. 2 Paving the Way: The “Miraculous Era” in Communication and the “Unprotected Female”
    (pp. 33-48)

    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s remarkable literary fame and her frequent presence on the European continent made her a powerful agent for bringing women together internationally. Along with George Sand, she personified the unifying power of literary celebrity. Stowe is also important, though, as atravelingauthor whose experience reflects the myriad transformations that made up the great communications revolution of the nineteenth century. In 1853 she toured Europe, escorted by her brother, Charles Beecher, and her husband, Calvin Stowe. Their reports of the material conditions of their travel—their conveyances, lodgings, monetary arrangements, bureaucratic problems and solutions—give a lively sense...

  7. 3 The Ironies of Pentecost: Women Religious and Evangelistic Outreach
    (pp. 49-66)

    Evangelism brought Britain and America together in ways that transcended political nationalism. Its “brisk traffic across the Atlantic,” Frank Thistlethwaite claims, “was concerned with nothing less than world salvation.” Here, he asserts, was “a genuirie Atlantic community.”¹ Since female evangelists were very much a part of the movement for world salvation, connections they built helped form the basis for an international feminist network.²

    Both Catholic and Protestant Christians expanded the “proper” sphere for women by fostering international contacts and debating social issues—though most of the women involved would have been horrified to think that they were transforming accepted roles....

  8. 4 Unwitting Allies: Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Sand, and the Power of Literary Celebrity
    (pp. 67-84)

    Historians and literary scholars who take the trouble to look cross-nationally at the Atlantic community in the nineteenth century almost inevitably stumble upon an odd fact. Two writers—Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96) and George Sand (1804–76)—exerted an astonishingly massive influence in a variety of national settings, an influence that bore no real relation to the intrinsic literary merits of their works. Furthermore, although an important effect of their popularity was the promotion of the cause of female emancipation, neither author was gripped by a sense of the overriding importance of this cause. Indeed, as noted in Chapter...

  9. 5 A Developing Consciousness: Revolutionaries, Refugees, and Expatriates
    (pp. 85-106)

    In the nineteenth century Europe functioned as a powerful demographic engine, more than doubling its population even while sending its sons and daughters abroad in unprecedented numbers. Between 1815 and 1932 more than 60 million persons migrated from the old countries, swelling especially the populations of North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Siberia. Population pressure—the result of medical progress and the rising standard of living—accounts for much of this outmigration, but political factors were far from negligible. The enormous movement of Russian Jews after 1881 was a response to savage pogroms and official discrimination. Scandinavian young...

  10. 6 Higher Consciousness: Reformers and Utopians
    (pp. 107-132)

    All the reform movements of the nineteenth century—abolitionism, temperance, antiprostitution, peace, utopianism—served as practice arenas for creating the matrix. Early in the century, abolitionists were extremely vocal and active in the United States and abroad, and they were in constant contact: collecting signatures on petitions, writing letters and articles, organizing conferences. Temperance, antiprostitution, and peace organizations also became increasingly international in scope, and the various utopian groups (secular and religious) transplanted members and ideas throughout the world. Frances Wright was especially well connected to the various reforms around her and very international in her thought and action as...

  11. 7 Mothers of the Matrix (I): Anna Doyle Wheeler, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Forms of Feminism
    (pp. 133-148)

    Chapter 1 described Lucretia Matt as a full-fledged “mother of the matrix,” an authentic “webster.” In this and the next chapter I celebrate the achievement of four quite different women who rank with Matt as premier contributors to the strength, density, and utility of the international network. Although all the women discussed thus far helped to construct the fertile web of communication, Anna Doyle Wheeler, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fredrika Bremer, and Frances Power Cobbe exhibit in full measure the qualities required to put them foremost among the “matrons” who superintended the conversations about women out of which the network was...

  12. 8 Mothers of the Matrix (II): Fredrika Bremer, Frances Power Cobbe and “World”-Traveling
    (pp. 149-170)

    Unlike Wheeler and Stanton, Fredrika Bremer and Frances Power Cobbe stressed women’s difference from men; although not alike in religious belief, in age, or in language, they were similar in their attitude toward woman as daughter, sister, and mother. Both wrote prolifically; both remained unmarried. Like Wheeler, Stanton, and Mott, both created richly textured international networks of correspondents, visitors, and readers. It was to them that hundreds of women turned for a referral or the latest argument on an issue of the day.

    Because they were not only single women but outsiders in other ways as well, their situations were...

  13. 9 “A Golden Cable of Sympathy”: Aleksandra Gripenberg, the Finland Connection, and the 1888 Council of Women
    (pp. 171-188)

    This book has sought to unlock part of the “secret” of the emergence of a fully mature international women’s consciousness and organizational articulation by the end of the nineteenth century. That there came into being a pre-organizational matrix (or network, or web) made up of complex lines of international contact, association, friendship, argument, and correspondence is, I hope, indisputable. Denser, stronger, and more productive than scholars have heretofore seen, this matrix becomes from now on an important explanatory factor in understanding the growth in our century of women’s internationality and transatlantic connectedness. Made possible by the communications revolution, prepared for...

  14. Appendix A: Some Atlantic Community Women with International Links
    (pp. 189-190)
  15. Appendix B: The Relevance and Irrelevance to This Study of Social Network Analysis
    (pp. 191-194)
  16. Appendix C: Adventurers and Invalids
    (pp. 195-198)
  17. Appendix D: International Governesses
    (pp. 199-202)
  18. Appendix E: Women Transatlantic Entrepreneurs in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 203-210)
  19. Appendix F: Women Artists Abroad
    (pp. 211-214)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 215-234)
  21. Works Cited
    (pp. 235-256)
  22. Index
    (pp. 257-270)