Women and Gender Seminar: Susan Pearson, Northwestern University

Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, May 15, 2009

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

“’The Dove Has Claws’: Anticruelty Reform and Masculine Sentimentalism in Gilded Age America”
Susan Pearson, Northwestern University
This paper examines the men involved in organizations to protect animals and children from cruelty in the years following the American Civil War. I argue that, rhetorically, such men created a masculinized version of sentimental humanitarianism that mirrored the institutional hybridity of anticruelty organizations. Combining moral suasion with police work, anticruelty societies were willing to arrest recalcitrant “cruelists.” By advocating law enforcement as the appropriate response to sympathy with suffering, anticruelty organizations went beyond the existing charity tradition and the antebellum humanitarian ideal to create an active, masculinized vision of the humanitarian.

Commentator: Timothy Gilfoyle, Loyola University Chicago