Loosening the Bonds

Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850

Joan M. Jensen

View Inside Price: $29.00


March 23, 1988
272 pages, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780300042658
Paper

The first book to investigate the rich and complex lives of rural women during the late colonial and early national periods.  Jensen focuses on women in the Philadelphia hinterland and shows how they became an essential part of that area’s rise to agricultural prominence.   Examining not only the Quakers, who formed the dominant group in the region, but also black and other ethnic groups, Jensen offers fascinating details on the ways farm women functioned in the varied spheres of their lives.  Her book makes a major contribution to women’s history.

"In this strikingly original book Jensen shows how farm women in the Philadelphia hinterland transformed themselves—and in the process transformed their society—in the century before the Civil War. This book should have a major impact on women's history, but its subtle analysis and methodological ingenuity will make it fascinating reading for all historians, regardless of their period or national focus."—Gary B. Nash, UCLA



 

 

 
 

 




 

 

 


"For this illuminating study of farm women Jensen has unearthed a dazzling array of sources: censuses, tax lists, and property inventories, records of church and poorhouse, journals of doctor and midwife, stories and homilies in farm almanacs, material objects from birth control devices to butter churns, as well as the words and thoughts of women themselves, long-hidden in obscure wills, letters, and diaries. In Jensen's retelling of the simple annals of the poor, farm women take their place at the very center of the developing economy and society of the new American nation."—John Mack Faragher, author of Women and Men on the Overland Trail

"Joan Jensen's Loosening the Bonds is certain to become a widely-read, highly-valued monograph in historiography on women. . . .  Jensen's book furnishes the first study of women in the mid-Atlantic region and her sources and techniques make it state-of-the-art."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Social history at its best. Joan Jensen has written a graceful narrative, weaving her findings together with stories about individual women and their families. . . .  Not only an addition to the existing literature on the history of farm women, the book makes a valuable contribution to the social history of the Colonies and early Republic."—MaryJo Wagner, Women's Review of Books

"This should serve as a model for future studies."—Library Journal

"A remarkable portrayal of women's lives in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware during the crucial century surrounding the revolution and the beginnings of large-scale urbanization and industrial development. . . . Jensen's study, creatively using a wide variety of primary sources, rooted in a thorough search of secondary literature, incorporating the perspective of women themselves, is a model for future research in rural history, women's history, and social history in general."—Judy Wellman, Journal of the Early Republic

"Joan Jensen has now given us a pioneering study of the lives of rural women during the crucial period of transition. . . . This important book furnishes the basis for a clearer understanding of the intricate relationship between economic change, ideology and the reality of women's lives."—Jack S. Blocker, Jr., The Historian

"Many of [Jensen's] findings will not surprise scholars familiar with published studies of women's traditional agricultural work, their involvement in early reform movements, or their entry into the teaching profession. Still, the focus on a mid-Atlantic region simultaneously provides a welcome change from research centered on New England and confirms that patterns previously identified in New England hold for the middle states as well. Additionally, unlike most earlier researchers, Jensen discusses the lives of poor white and black women. . . . Jensen's most original sections are those that describe and analyze the material objects employed in butter making. . . . Here she provides a model that should encourage other historians to use physical evidence in their attempts to uncover otherwise hidden aspects of women's lives."—Mary Beth Norton, American Historical Review

"Drawing on an unusually wide variety of sources, Jensen concentrates on the often overlooked rural women, those who were neither mill girls nor urban archetypes of true womanhood. . . . Her attention to the significance of butter production by farm women is particularly thought-provoking. The book is not without problems. The absence of a satisfactory map in inexplicable. . . . It is not always clear whether the study is about farm women who were mostly Quaker or about Quaker women who lived in the country, and what the relationships were. The sample is satisfying[ly] deep but narrow; other Mid-Atlantic farm women may have been considerably different. Nevertheless, Jensen's intensive scrutiny considerably enriches the picture of the 19th-century women."—Choice

"This book, with its methodological and substantive insights, will command attention from historians of women, agriculture, and culture, and from those interested in local and family history, material culture, and religion. . . . Much as the book reveals, it prompts questions too, a mark of an original and significant work. It is unclear, for example, how Quaker culture and the wider 'mid-Atlantic' culture were related. . . .  A more explicit explanation of precisely how the farm family of 1850 had become 'less subject to male control' would further strengthen the book's overall theme. . . . Loosening the Bonds points the way to new fields of inquiry in the history of rural women in other regions, agricultural systems, and subcultures. Future workers are fortunate to have such a splendid model."—Sally A. McMurry, Journal of American History

"An extremely well written and well documented account of farm women's work and lives."—Carolyn Sachs, Signs

"This volume contains important insights into the lives of women who rejected  'true womanhood' as the basis for directing their lives. Its particular strength lies in its analysis of women's contributions to the development of  dairying and the butter trade in the Brandywine Valley."—Kenneth E. Koons, Journal of Social History
 

"A systematic and detailed account of the lives of an important and previously unexamined group—American rural women in the century of industrialization from 1750-1850."—Lynne M. Adrian, Canadian Review of American Studies

Winner of the 1986 E. Harold Hugo Memorial Book Prize given annually by the Old Sturbridge Village Research Library Society to the book that makes the most significant contribution to the understanding of the history and material culture of rural New England from 1790-1850