Feminism – Final Project

Beginning in 1850 Abby Price, one of the forerunners of the Women’s Rights Movement, was a spokesperson for women and their freedom.  One of the rights she lobbied for was economic independence.  She felt that without it women would never have personal, legal or physical freedom.  “She demanded equal pay for equal work, and she demanded what we now call comparable worth.”  (Ceniza 63).

Over one hundred years later women still had to stand up for their rights for equal pay for equal work.  Click on the first link below to see a Public Service Ad from the 1960’s.  Use the back arrow to return to blog.


Price “did not feel that the home rewarded women with the high sense of morality and spirituality that her society kept telling her it did.  She saw such claims as bogus, as ways to flatter women in order to keep them in their place.”  (63). 

Although Walt Whitman valued motherhood, he valued women as equal to men and able to do whatever they wanted.  He believed that if women pursued interests outside the home they would be more satisfied and happier with their domestic responsibilities. And he felt women should have the right to choose how they wanted to spend their time.

Once again, over one hundred years later, women are facing the same challenges.  In the next ad we hear a male voice telling working women that they need to be themselves once in a while and that is done through baking.  Again, use the back arrow to return to post.


Both Whitman and the members of the feminist movement wanted women out in the real world.  In Democratic Vistas Whitman wrote, ” – but great, at any rate, as man, in all departments; or, rather, capable of being so, soon as they realize it, and can bring themselves to give up toys and fictions, and launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent, stormy life.”  He wanted women to become “robust equals and workers.”  (222). 

Women like Abby Price, Paulina Davis and Ernestine Rose devoted their lives to the liberation of women.  These women, along with Whitman, spoke and wrote for the freedom that women were entitled to.  Men of the 19th century did not take them seriously, reporting in newspapers about the fashions worn at the women’s conventions instead of the content of the speeches.  And, once again, over one hundred years later women are still being mocked.   The next link shows yet another ad that makes it clear that women can become working girls, but they are expected to fulfill their domestic duties at all times.   Once again, use the back arrow to return to post.


Posted on December 8th, 2009 by janices  |  No Comments »

Late Night TV and Walt

In the words of Sofia Petrillo, picture it:  Magnolia (that’s in NJ), Thursday, November 11, 2009, sometime between 9 and 9:30 pm.  I’ve just arrived home from my third evening on campus at Rutgers, Camden and have one thing on my mind, to get ahead in my Looking for Whitman work.  I have caught up in my other classes, except for finishing King Lear.  I am determined to finish my digital museum and my two new Whitman assignments by Sunday so I can focus on Shakespeare on Monday…..

I sit down at my computer and decide to check my email before beginning my project, only to find a note from a professor informing me that a paper I turned in a week ago was done incorrectly.  For the next five minutes I hesitate, think about calling it quits forever – this has been the most grueling semester I have ever had – change my mind and immediately get to work on correcting  the assignment.

I am now sitting on my couch, hunched over my coffee table, where my lap top happily resides, (I don’t recommend this….it kills the back and cuts off circulation to the legs.) when I realize it is 10 pm.  I have been working feverishly for only about 20 minutes, and although I don’t make it a habit to watch TV while working, I absolutely must turn it on.  I have allowed myself one last television indulgence since going back to school 4 years ago and it is on NOW.  So, I turn the volume down half way and go back to my paper.  I am pretty much tuning out the show I so desperately wanted to see…..and it’s the semi final episode of the season!  I am so much more interested in getting this paper done.  (This little problem has really put a glitch in  my exiting weekend plans!!!!!)  I ended up working on the paper until 2 am, so I cannot tell you if this actually happened during my show or some other time during those four hours at the computer, but all of a sudden my brain registers something my ears have vaguely heard.  Could this really be happening?  My eyes dart from my computer screen to the TV.  Low and behold this is really happening! Despite how fatigued they are, my ears have not deceived me.  It is not an illusion.  What I am hearing is “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” and what I am seeing is the Levi commercial that we were just discussing in class the night before.  Who would have thunk it?  I stop, watch and attempt to register this timely event somewhere in my now overly taxed brain.  Writing about Walt Whitman and watching “his” commercial on TV at the same time; I could not have planned that in a millennium.

So what about the commercial?  My initial reaction is one of anger.  That is probably because the beginning of the ad is violent and confusing.  At first it appears that the characters are unsuccessfully attempting to fight off something scary, and then they appear to be running from something.  In the end they are just playing.  While the commercial’s cast of characters is made up of young people, and Walt is addressing his “tan-faced children” in the first line of the poem, that is where the similarity between the two ends.  By the fourth stanza of the poem Walt is telling his audience that they need to take up where their predecessors left off, “We take up the task eternal, and the burden andthe lesson.”  In the commercial the first three stanzas where Walt is beckoning to the youth to follow him, are read.   The fourth stanza, which is where Walt lets the youth know his intentionn for calling them, is completely skipped, then the second and third lines of the fifth stanza are read and it is over.  There are twenty-six stanzas in the poem.  How could anyone come to understand Walt’s full meaning in the poem from this ad?  How could anyone have the opportunity to appreciate what he was trying to do with his work by watching this one minute and three second video?  They cannot.  Unless the poem is read in its entirety it is not possible to understand its meaning.  The advertisers took a portion of this poem and attempted to fit it into their agenda.  They sorely missed the mark.  The visuals do not match Walt’s words or meaning.

The producers take a beautiful poem and mock it.  The characters in the commercial are not forging onward through uncharted territories, they are playing.  They are not depicted as doing anything to move this land forward or take their places in society as the previous generation winds down, as Walt is calling them to do in his poem.  In stanza twenty-three he specifically tells his readers that the call on their lives is not for fun, but for hard work.

                             Not for delectations sweet,

            Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,

            Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,

                            Pioneers! O pioneers!  (Kaplan 374)

Another aspect of this commercial that  is a mockery to Walt is the use of his work to sell clothing.  One of the characteristics about Wlat that has come through in my reasearch is that he was never interested in clothing as it pertained to the latest fashion or what was popular at the time.  I don’t see him as one who whould be honored to be linked to an advertisement for clothing.  Possibly if the Levis were presented in such a way that linked them to blazing uncharted territory, building a better world, or fighting against oppression he could appreciate his words being used to sell them.

As my grandmother used to say, Walt is probably turning over in his grave.  Anyone who compares what he was doing with his work to this commercial and says that television advertisers are the new poets is degrading him and his life.

I find one good thing about his ad; it gave me material for a Looking for Whitman blog post.

Posted on November 16th, 2009 by janices  |  1 Comment »

Supporter of Women’s Independence

…..Where women walk in public processions in the streets the same as the men,

      Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the men……

click here to read bibessay

whitman and feminism

Posted on November 15th, 2009 by janices  |  No Comments »

Walt, 19th Century Fashion and the Suffrage Movement

The seventeenth national suffrage convention was held in Washington DC on January 20 – 22, 1885.  Susan B. Anthony, in her book History of Women Suffrage, notes “the custom of the newspaper reporters to give a detailed description of each one of the speakers.  The public was informed, one lady wore a small bonnet made of gaudy-colored birds’ wings; one spoke with a pretty lisp, was attired in a box-pleated satin skirt, velvet newbasque polonaise, hollyhock corsage bouquet; a large lady worea green cashmere dress with pink ribbons in her hair.  These extracts are taken verbatim from the best newspapers of the day.”

susan b. anthony


  Click here:  DigitalMuseum2                                                                                     


Posted on November 15th, 2009 by janices  |  No Comments »

Walt’s Summer Home in NJ

Walt spent his summers at the Stafford farm in Laurel Springs, NJ.

Click on one of the links to see it.  The link titled 315 E. Maple Ave. is the newest version of powerpoint.  The other is the 97-2003 version.

315 E. Maple Ave.              315 E. Maple Ave. 97

Posted on October 14th, 2009 by janices  |  No Comments »

Yonnondio Explication

 Click on this link to see the slide show, then go to the annotations section to read about the poem.

Yonnondio         yonnondio97

Posted on October 14th, 2009 by janices  |  No Comments »

Whitman and Women

Sherry Ceniza’s article, “Women as a Theme in Whitman’s Writing” asks if Whitman’s writing was enabling to women.  Sherry says that the answer lies in the details and they are “so abundant and intricate that to do justice to the topic one would have to write a complete book.”  She proceeds to break the details into categories, including “ways Whitman went about inscribing the new woman, the democractic woman into his writing.”  Although I would agree that Walt includes women in the poems she cites, I do not agree that they necessarily enable women.  “Song of the Open Road” is one of her selections.  Although he speaks of women in the poem and invites them, along with men, to join him on the open road, I do not see any statements of enablement to them.  Women had been traveling the open road for hundreds of years prior and were used to accompanying their men into the frontier, working just as hard as they did to survive.  Once a settlement was formed, women took their dutiful places in the home while men ran the town.  I find nothing here to say that Walt is enabling women to be empowered to liberation and equality, except the equality that comes from mutually trying to survive in nature.  He does not invite them into politics, business or academia anywhere in this poem.

Again, I do not see Ceniza’s choice of section 11 of “Song of the Exposition” as speaking to the public image of women.  When taken in the scope of the entire poem, it is speaking about the quintessential mother who has unconditional love for her son.  If you read the entire poem, each section stands alone, yet is built upon what came in the previous section.   In the last stanza of section 10, the last two lines speak about the son who leaves home all “confident and puff’d up” and returns home “diseas’d, broken down, without innocence, without means.”  When he enters the door again he finds her.  The “her” Walt is describing in section 10 is explained in section 11 and is a mother.  That sense comes from the whole section, especially the last two lines where he says, “She receives them as the laws of Nature receive them, she is strong, She too is a law of Nature – there is no law stronger than she is.”  That does not speak to me of a woman in the public spear, but one who is God like in her strength and ability to uphold the greatest spiritual command, to love unconditionally.

In one of the other poems Ceniza sights, “A Woman Waits for Me,” Walt clearly states that he feels women are physically capable of doing the same things men do, but he does not write anything that sounds as if he is endorsing the feminist movement or  enabling them to stand up and fight for a public place in society.  I have not read all of Whitman’s work, so I cannot say that he did not write works that were enabling to women; I just do not see Ceniza’s point in these selections.

Posted on October 13th, 2009 by janices  |  1 Comment »

Politics in Art

The first point that made an impression on me in the excerpt of Betsy Erkkila’s book Whitman the Political Poet is her statement that, “this split has been at least partly the construction of critics who, under the influence of the Modernist and New Critical insistence on the separation of politics and art, have been eager to rescue Whitman’s poems from the charge of political contingency in order to save them for the universality of art.” (Erkkila pg. 6).  It was Whitman’s intense interest in the politics of this country that was the basis for many of his works.  Whitman took relevant issues of the day and wrote about them in forms that were artistic, making them much more enjoyable to read than a text book.  Most of Whitman’s work came from his life experiences.  Politics were a big part of his life.  He lived through and played a part in the Civil War.  He witnessed the industrial revolution first hand.  He experienced corruption in political and government offices.  He worked in Washington, DC for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  From these very public, political experiences came many of his poems and prose works, his art.  Whitman’s political experiences cannot be separated from his art.

Erkkila’s criticism of the critics’ attempts to separate politics and the issues of Whitman’s time from the “poetic development” (pg. 6).  of his work is central to the theme of her book.  It is an injustice to the American people to censor Whitman’s work in the way critics have done.  Whitman would be appalled.  The intent behind his work was to inform and incite the people.  He wanted them to be aware of what was going on in their world and to become active participants.  He believed it was his purpose in life to make people aware.  He did this through his writing which was done in artistic formats instead of formal, scientific styles.

New Critics believed that literary analysis is separate and distinct from political analysis.  While research writings may differ in form and methodology from poetry or other artistic writings, the critics are incorrect that the two cannot mix.  Expressing one’s views about politics through artistic medians has become a tremendously popular genre.  All one has to do is google ‘art in politics’ and instantly 155,000,000 results appear.  Among these results are “Positions in Flux – Panel 1:  Art Goes Politics” and “The New School/The Vera List Center for Art and Politics.”  In the New School’s mission statement they say, “dedicated to serving as a catalyst for the discourse on the role of the arts in society and their relationship to the sociopolitical climate in which they were created.”  Was Whitman years ahead of himself?

Posted on September 29th, 2009 by janices  |  1 Comment »

What Would Whitman Write Today?



The Atlantic Collins 1850-58


“The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm.” Page 39

The cultural meaning of this statement in Whitman’s time would be referring to the operation of a ship. The pilot is the person driving the ship and the king-pin is the device he uses to steer it.

Whitman wrote this over 100 years before I was born and 150 years before I read it. Coming from the cultural background of the 20th and 21st centuries, the image that immediately flashed in my mind when I read this line was not of one steering an old ship, but a pilot of an airplane who was thwarting an attack from a terrorist attempting to highjack the plane.  The airplane was invented in 1903, over 50 years after Whitman wrote this line in Song of Myself.  If Whitman were writing this line today what do you think it would say?

King-pin is defined as:

1.  Bowling:  headpin, the pin at the center; number five pin

2. Informal.  the person of chief importance in a corporation, movement, undertaking, etc.

3. Informal. chief element of any system, plan or the like.

4. a kingbolt

5. either of the pins that are a part of the mechanism for turning the front wheels in some automotive steering system.

Origin:  1795 – 1805; King + pin   Dictionary.com Unabridged 



Modern Day Commercial Airplane by Boeing

Posted on September 15th, 2009 by janices  |  2 Comments »

The Song of Janice


My Dad and Me

Discussng Walt Whitman with Dad


 The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamoured of growing outdoors,Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,

Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wielders of axes and mauls, of the drivers of horses,

I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

All my life I wanted to live on a farm, own a horse and some livestock, grow food and work with the earth.  I have only managed to do that vicariously through books.
It was my father who instilled in me a love for reading and knowledge.  He now lives in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimers.  He can only read magazines now, which he does all day.  He does not remember my name, but he remembered who Walt Whitman was when I showed him the biography.

Posted on September 9th, 2009 by janices  |  2 Comments »

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