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Augusta Goes to Work

The assumption in the nineteenth century was that women stayed at home while their husbands worked.   Women were to be taken care of.   But in many cases, as Nina Baym points out in her interview above, the expectation of being taken care of did not work out.   The options left to females in the household was to be poor or to find work on their own.

Augusta Evans felt a strong attachment to both of her parents and obviously took her father’s misfortune very much to heart.    Having failed twice in business and now in ill health, Matthew Evans faced dismal prospects in Mobile.     Virtually the only job available to women at that time was teaching.   Another option for women was writing, since it could be done at home.   But for a woman to publish a novel, especially under her own name, was not considered proper in the 1850s.    Augusta Evans elected to do her writing in secret for fear her father would disapprove.   Only Augusta’s African-American servant Fannie knew of Augusta’s endeavor.  Eventually Fannie felt obliged to report the project to Sarah Evans because she was afraid Augusta’s ceaseless toil was ruining her health.

“She’s too perlitical,” Fidler quotes Fannie as saying.  If so, she was very astute, for Augusta’s first novel showed that unlike the proper Victorian woman, she was not afraid to hold -- and express – her own political views.