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Beyond the Book

260 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, notes, bibl., index

Gender and American Culture

ISBN  978-1-4696-1814-2
Published: September 2014

The Struggle for Equal Adulthood

Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America

By Corinne T. Field

In the fight for equality, early feminists often cited the infantilization of women and men of color as a method used to keep them out of power. Corinne T. Field argues that attaining adulthood--and the associated political rights, economic opportunities, and sexual power that come with it--became a common goal for both white and African American feminists between the American Revolution and the Civil War. The idea that black men and all women were more like children than adult white men proved difficult to overcome, however, and continued to serve as a foundation for racial and sexual inequality for generations.

In detailing the connections between the struggle for equality and concepts of adulthood, Field provides an essential historical context for understanding the dilemmas black and white women still face in America today, from "glass ceilings" and debates over welfare dependency to a culture obsessed with youth and beauty. Drawn from a fascinating past, this book tells the history of how maturity, gender, and race collided, and how those affected came together to fight against injustice.

About the Author

Corinne T. Field is a lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History and the Women, Gender, Sexuality Program at the University of Virginia.


"Sheds new light on the early women's rights movement in the United States. . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in nineteenth-century reform and in women's history."
--Journal of American History

“An admirable contribution, refreshing, strongly argued, and insightful.”
--American Historical Review

“An innovative intellectual and cultural history of the relationship between rights, sex, race, and age.”
--Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

“Field’s accessible and important book reveals the possibilities and limitations of broad movements for equality.”
--North Carolina Historical Review

"In this book, Corinne T. Field not only illuminates a significant issue for feminists and abolitionists, but she also shows how adulthood united these two movements, if only fleetingly. A pleasure to read and an important contribution to the history of women, race, and citizenship in the United States."—Carol Faulkner, Syracuse University

The Struggle for Equal Adulthood is intellectually and conceptually brilliant. A gratifying, tightly focused, and rigorously argued text, it approaches its topic with clarity and verve. Corinne T. Field has written a compelling book that will contribute to both women’s and African American history.”
--Barbara Dianne Savage, University of Pennsylvania

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