"Based on an extraordinarily rich and varied collection of diaries, letters, and autobiographies of European Americans and African Americans, this book presents the voices and views of unpropertied, unprivileged people and sensitively probes the commonalities and differences in their experiences and perspectives. Hansen persuasively argues that recognizing the 'social' domain illuminates the agency of working people and dissolves the stereotypically gendered public/private dichotomy."Nancy Grey Osterud, author of Bonds of Community
"It is a pleasure to welcome Karen Hansen into the first rank of historical sociologists.
In this superb model of scholarship, she leads us on an illuminating tour of the social life of literate working people in antebellum New England. Her arena is 'the social'the territory that overlaps with private and public, where the dynamics of friendship, visiting, gossip, and collective worship combine to fashion many of life's great joys and sorrows. Best of all, she tells her story through the experiences of the people themselves.
In a clear and honest way, Hansen manages to raise fundamental questions about perceived conceptions of gender, class, and the public-private dichotomy."Neil J. Smelser, University of California, Berkeley
"This wonderful book makes a real contribution to our understanding of the lives of women and men in antebellum New England. With its focus on people of modest means and its meticulous and insightful exploration of friendship, visiting, gossip, and church-going, Hansen's work refines and concretizes how we conceive the 'social.'"Mary Ann Clawson, Wesleyan University
"How refreshing it is to see someone address the big issues in sociology based on the experience of real people. Karen Hansen has valuable things to say about the limits of the public/private distinction and the importance of the social. Her book moves the discussion of these issues to a new level."Alan Wolfe, author of The Human Difference
Hansen (sociology, Brandeis Univ.) argues that defining men's realm as the ``public'' and women's as the ``private'' does not account for the roles both men and women played in creating the communities of antebellum New England. She believes that a third dimension she calls the ``social'' needs to be added. As an example, she cites the importance of visiting in the creation of the community. Visitors were frequently cited in diaries as providing opportunities to discuss current issues, work together, and help one another. Other aspects of antebellum life included in this study are friendship, gossip as an agent for controlling behavior, and the social aspects of church attendance. Hansen has made extensive use of diaries and correspondence in developing this study. Highly recommended for scholars and informed lay readers.-Linda McEwan, Elgin Community Coll., Ill.