Fall 2016 – Just Teach One no. 9
Text prepared by Ed White (Tulane University) and Duncan Faherty (Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center). Introduction by Jodi Schorb (University of Florida).
The Female Review (1797)
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Our Fall 2016 text is Herman Mann’s The female review: or, Memoirs of an American young lady; whose life and character are peculiarly distinguished–being a Continental soldier, for nearly three years, in the late American war (1797). Mann’s text purports to be a memoir of Deborah Sampson, who, as “Robert Shurtliff,” served in the Continental Army at the end of the American Revolution; indeed, the text was partially intended to serve as evidence in Sampson’s protracted battle to win compensation and an invalid pension for military service. Thus, on one level, The Female Review was intended to shape Sampson’s public reputation and make the case for the celebrated military veteran’s honorable service. But rather than present and dramatize a straightforward argument about Sampson’s moral fitness, unquestioned patriotism, and honorable service to country, Mann’s account builds slowly, meanders, invents episodes, and seems especially concerned—to the point of paranoia—that Sampson’s success will encourage American women to abandon their prescribed roles, don men’s garb, and set off for greener pastures.
While it is difficult to classify multilayered text generically, it does echo many of the conventions of the period’s more familiar fictionalized narratives which claim to be “founded on fact.” The text runs about 40,000 words (that’s just a bit longer than Charlotte Temple), and would probably require a week of class time, or at least two periods. It would be suitable for classes on gender studies, life writing, the American Revolution and revolutionary/war literature, the early US novel, and science in literature. (The Female Review was later republished by John Adams Vinton in a heavily annotated 19C edition; the JTO version restores the original to a manageable, readable format.)
The Common-Place website also includes two related pieces that might be of interest to potential teachers: Martha Tomhave Blauvelt’s review of Alex Myers’s Revolutionary: A Novel, an historical novel that imagines Sampson through a transgender lens, and Sarah M. S. Pearsall’s conversation with the late Alfred F. Young about Masquerade, his biography of Sampson.
In the wake of the American Revolution and beyond, Deborah Sampson was both celebrity and enigma, capturing the imagination of a nation that had successfully won their independence from England. Herman Mann’s The Female Review (1797), penned with Sampson’s consent, is less a factual biography of Sampson than a fictive shaping of Sampson for early republican audiences, a “tangle of fact, invention, and mystery” (Young 3) that stages the ambivalent relationship between Mann, a former schoolteacher from Dedham, Massachusetts who had recently embarked on a career as an editor and printer, and Sampson, his willing yet elusive subject. The narrative’s richness lies in Mann’s attempt to make both an example and a warning of Sampson.
Born in 1760 near Plympton, a small farming village, Sampson was great-great granddaughter of governor William Bradford (1590-1657) on her mother’s side and descendent of Mayflower settler Henry Sampson on her father’s side. Despite an illustrious ancestry, Sampson’s family suffered “downward mobility” (Young 24), marked by poverty and instability. Sampson’s father, an itinerant agricultural laborer, abandoned his wife and children; soon after, mother Deborah Bradford Sampson put five-year-old Deborah out to service in various Massachusetts households. An indentured servant until age eighteen, Sampson, now a “masterless woman,” became a weaver (“one of the very few androgynous trades in New England,” notes biographer Alfred Young ), then a rural schoolteacher, then, near age twenty-one, a soldier in the Continental Army (37). Donning men’s clothes (not for the first time, as it turns out) and adopting the generic name “Robert Shurtliff,” the soldier fought in several skirmishes, suffered battle injuries (to either the groin or upper body), and was eventually promoted to serving as “waiter” (an officer’s orderly) to brigadier general John Paterson.
Sampson’s military career has been most carefully reconstructed by Alfred F. Young in Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier. Although The Female Review claims Sampson/Shurtliff enlisted in 1781 and fought at the Battle of Yorktown (September-October, 1781), Sampson/Shurtliff 1 actually served in the Continental Army from May, 1782 until October, 1783, in the light infantry company of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment (93, 97). The light infantry was an elite, highly mobile, and–at the war’s end, at least–well-equipped division of the army. Young’s reconstruction suggests that this military service was largely in Westchester County around the Croton River (122), an actively contested area of civil warfare between Washington’s headquarters at West Point and British-occupied New York City.
Sent as part of a company under Gen. Paterson to Philadelphia to suppress a mutinous uprising of Continental soldiers, Sampson/Shurtliff fell severely ill from contagious fever. An attending physician observed the bedridden soldier’s bound breasts, discovering Sampson’s biological sex. Surprisingly, the doctor withheld this information until the end of the war, and Sampson/Shurtliff continued to serve until the official Paris peace treaty in October, 1783, when a stunned Paterson, ostensibly in possession of a note containing the doctor’s disclosure, gave the soldier an honorable discharge—but no pay. Within a year, the first newspaper accounts surfaced about “[a]n extraordinary instance of virtue in a female soldier” (qtd. in Young 4).
The Female Review (1797) was published over a decade after the Revolutionary War amidst Sampson’s protracted battle to win compensation and an invalid pension for military service. Struggling financially, Sampson (now married and known as Deborah Gannett) successfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for back pay in 1792. Suffering from injuries received in wartime, Sampson/Gannett then began a much longer battle to win financial support from the U.S. Congress. The government had become suspicious of false claims, forcing petitioners to offer extensive documentation and of “decisive disability” that prevented them from earning a livelihood (Young 191). Having hid wartime wounds, Sampson lacked such documentation and began an arduous campaign that involved securing the testimony of esteemed public figures, including Paul Revere and Philip Freneau, and in 1802-3, raising support through a lecture and performance tour. Early in this process, Sampson sought out and collaborated with Herman Mann, a local editor eagerly hoping to build his reputation as a printer. Believing Sampson deserving of disability pay, Mann began interviewing Sampson around 1793, publishing The Female Review in November 1797; the two continued their collaboration across the next decade and beyond (Hiltner, “She Bled” 191; Young 186). Ultimately, The Female Review helped Sampson’s quest for recognition and financial restitution: the narrative sold briskly, with all fifteen hundred copies selling out. In 1805, Sampson was granted a Massachusetts Invalid Pension of four dollars a month. An 1809 request to raise the pension was denied, but in 1816, Congress agreed to an award of $76.80 a year (Young 233).
Thus, The Female Review was intended to shape Sampson’s public reputation and make the case for the celebrated military veteran’s honorable service. But rather than present and dramatize a straightforward argument about Sampson’s moral fitness, unquestioned patriotism, and honorable service to country, Mann’s account builds slowly, meanders, invents episodes, and seems especially concerned—to the point of paranoia—that Sampson’s success will encourage American women to abandon their prescribed roles, don men’s garb, and set off for greener pastures. Thus, the text provides a useful illustration of how challenging it was to defy the era’s gender norms and still receive public accolades and approval.
“Our better-deserving orphan,” “the young Continental,” “our fair Soldier,” “our heroic FEMALE,” “the blooming boy,” the “so much admired Virago”: Mann’s range of appellations for Sampson illustrate the slipperiness of his subject. In Mann’s hand, Sampson is an exemplary model of self-directed learning and republican virtue, motivated primarily by love of learning and enthusiasm for country, capable of surviving the depredations of battle with virtue intact. Despite his admiration, Mann cautions that Sampson set a dangerous precedent: he encourages female readers to emulate Sampson’s virtues, but not Sampson’s deeds, constructing his subject as both exemplary patriot and cautionary tale. As tempting as it must be to escape the constraints of the domestic sphere, opines Mann to his imagined female readership, the soldier’s life—which the text associates with brutality, irrational warfare, and brutish masculinity—is no life for a virtuous republican, male or female. So Mann walks the tightrope, documenting Sampson’s spirit of “enterprise,” shielding his subject from accusations of impropriety, heralding the “fair soldier’s” patriotic sacrifices—all the while discouraging women from abandoning their domestic duties and encouraging the nation to seek peaceable resolution rather than protracted warfare.
Thanks to the pioneering literary scholarship of Judith Hiltner and the sustained sleuthing of historian Alfred Young, we now have a much better understanding of how the historical Sampson differed from The Female Review’s constructed counterpart. While many of Mann’s claims can be verified, “extensive portions of the text are fabricated or imaginatively augmented episodes” (Hiltner 191, 194), including the shipwreck death of Sampson’s father (he abandoned the family and remarried), Sampson’s participation in the battle at Yorktown (which happened before Sampson enlisted), Sampson’s time as a frontier scout among Indians (no evidence exists that Sampson spent time as a military scout under Philip Schuyler or in the Ohio territories under Benjamin Tupper), and Sampson’s rescue of a white female Indian captive, whom the narrative claims the scout snatched from the stake and soonafter married (a fiction, alas). Seizing on these contradictions, Hiltner has usefully described the The Female Review as a “polyglot interplay of historical fact and republican romance . . . so characteristic of early national literature [that] articulates in its instability, exuberance, and contradictions the aspirations and anxieties of the early republic” (211). As a historian, Alfred Young responds less enthusiastically, classifying Mann’s text as “frustrating,” and Mann as an “inept, inexperienced writer” who was “in a project over his head” (12, 13).
As “polyglot” text, The Female Review compellingly illustrates how popular literary genres, from female warrior ballads to captivity narratives, were readily adapted and integrated into the emerging genre of early American life narrative. For example, when Mann launched a literary venture in January 1798 (the Minerva, later the Columbia Minerva), he would routinely publish portions of the books he advertised (Hiltner 192), demonstrating his familiarity with the era’s literary conventions and his willingness to creatively adapt popular genres to audience tastes. One of his most likely inspirations was The Female Soldier; or, The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell (London, 1750), the popular fictionalized memoir of a real-life British woman who disguised herself as a male soldier and marine “to roam . . . in quest of the man who had forsaken her” (qtd. in Dugaw 130), suffering a musket ball wound to the groin (which Snell removes with her own fingers to escape detection), fighting with valor, and inspiring the amorous attentions of multiple woman.1 The Female Soldier was one of many wildly popular “female warrior” ballads and accounts that provided entertainment and alternative models of female heroism. Mann “elaborated Gannett’s life story to develop the woman warrior tale in radically new ways,” incorporating American Revolutionary ideology into a largely British genre: an orphaned daughter (not unlike America herself) remakes herself, mobilized not by heterosexual love (so prominent a motivator in the female warrior tradition), but by love of country (Gustafson 391).
Other genres that infuse The Female Review include Indian captivity narratives, most notably in the late chapters that dramatize frontier scouting expeditions, when our daring “Adventress” falls gravely ill, is held by Indians, and becomes “the only white man (a girl!) among them, . . . surrounded by the infernals” (54). Here, Sampson’s rescue of (and marriage to) a hapless papoose-dropping female British captive offers an inspired adaption of the genre’s sensational conventions, in which the female captive was expected to survive captivity with chastity intact. Mann’s fictionalized biography also draws suspense from the dominant theme of the eighteenth century seduction novel, in which a virtuous woman survives and defends and preserves chastity against often excessive and persistent threat. Other likely sources include David Ramsay and William Gordon’s histories of the Revolution and Jedidiah Morse’s geographies, which Mann uses to construct his account of Yorktown, as well as Enos Hitchcock’s 1793 novel, The Farmer’s Friend, in which protagonist 1 Young observes that, while a weaver in Sproat’s public house, Sampson might have come across Snell’s narrative, or a three-page excerpt reprinted in Isaiah Thomas’s 1775 almanac, and even taken personal inspiration (88). Charles Worthy embarks on an educational journey that resembles that of young Deborah (Hiltner 192). Observes Hiltner, “In appropriating a source that enabled him to script Sampson as a self-learner, Mann found a convenient vehicle to promote his own enlightened intellectual and theological passions, which throughout his long print career he continued to endorse as essential to national health and stability,” including female education, deism, and the importance of virtuous female influence to counter male violence and viciousness (Hiltner 194, 202),
In The Female Review, Mann constructs Sampson a child of misfortune, a sympathetic young woman driven by her love for natural history, geography, stargazing, and plants; her outrage at the sexual exploitation of woman (and defacing of buildings) during wartime; and her sensitivity to the tides of patriotic fervor sweeping the nation. Together, these produce “sensations hitherto unknown” and “a kind of enthusiasm” that propel her to assume male garb and enlist. By contrast, in Masquerade, Young lays out his argument that the “hefty reward for enlisting” and the chance to escape women’s limited sphere motivated Sampson far more than natural history, female solidarity, or patriotism (6). And while Mann works strenuously to establish his heroine’s femininity, the historical Sampson’s atypical gender presentation was more persistent than Mann’s fictive counterpart suggests. While Mann’s text avoided depicting Sampson as laborer, hearsay and firsthand accounts passed down described young Deborah as tall and muscular, “acquainted with almost all kinds of manual labor,” from ploughing to wielding tools, to “cut[ting] wood like an old experienced chopper” (qtd. in Young 34, 46). At five foot seven, Sampson was taller than many men of the time, whose height averaged five foot five (Young 46). Nor was Sampson’s stint as Robert Shurtliff a first. In spring 1782, Sampson dressed in men’s clothes and enlisted as “Timothy Thayer” (Young 75); Thayer never showed for duty and reportedly squandered the signing bonus at a local tavern. Mann dismisses the entire episode as unsubstantiated rumor (“I have no account of this from her; nor is the report in the least authenticated,” claims Mann ), but church records prove otherwise. After the Thayer episode, Sampson was excommunicated from the Third Baptist Church of Middleborough, which noted with disapproval that Sampson was “accused of dressing in men’s cloths and inlisting as a soldier in the army. . . and for some time before [departing town] behaved very loose and unChristian like” (qtd. in Young 80; 68, 72). Nor was this Sampson’s last self-conscious male presentation. After an honorable discharge, “the young Continental” did not follow the expected path—adopting female attire, resuming a traditional feminine path. Instead, still in “regimentals,” Sampson returned in 1783 to a relative’s farm in Sharon, Massachusetts and lived as “Ephriam Sampson,” brother of Deborah. Within the year, the former solider became engaged to Benjamin Gannett, Jr., a farmer (Mann glosses the episode, including when the courtship began and when Sampson reverted back to “Deborah”). Sampson 4 married Benjamin Gannett the following year (a long engagement for the times), and by 1790, “Mrs. Gannett” bore three children (far less than the average married woman of the day); she later adopted a young orphan girl (Young 10-11, 32). Sustained and multiple periods of masculine presentation, an embrace of religious revivalism, church excommunication: the historical Sampson fits uncomfortably into Mann’s idealized portrait.
While Hiltner and Young consider Sampson as part of a long history of “passing women” whose masculine presentation was a “masquerade,” we can also posit Sampson’s masculine self-making as potentially motivated by more than passing or disguise. Recent work explores Sampson’s masculinity and penchant for male dress as a “taste” or proclivity. As such, the text might be debated as an early transgender narrative, before the rise of sexology and more modern understanding of that term. Arguing that the “transatlantic interest in popular botany” serves as “alternative sit[e] for the study of American sexuality before the rise of formal sexology,” Greta LaFleur traces The Female Review’s important contribution to early American sexual epistemology: Mann’s text is “rife with biological imagery and metaphor,” observes LaFleur, “a narrative texture that sets The Female Review apart from contemporary representations of cross-dressing female soldiers” (98). Mann repeatedly employs botanical idioms to classify Sampson (“bud,” “species,” fertile. . . soil,” “cultivation,” and so on) and to describe Sampson’s unusual proclivities (a “taste for the study of NATURE” , a “taste for contemplation of the objects and experiences exhibited in creation” , a fascination with their “nature, use and end” ), suggesting the era’s fascination with and taxonomical quest for “new specimens” (qtd. in LaFleur 95). Given how often The Female Review relies on “botanical taxonomy” to trace, explore, and theorize Mann’s difference and “sexual variance” (LaFleur 99), we might consider British naturalist Erasmus Darwin’s pathbreaking and erotic scientific tome, The Loves of the Plants (London, 1789) as yet another influence on The Female Review, for botanical texts were introducing contemporary readers to the wide range of gender variance and sexual diversity in the natural world. For example, Darwin celebrates the plant “Kleinhovia” as distinct, because “the males in each flower are supported by the female. The name of the class may be translated ‘Viragoes’ or ‘Feminine Males” (22). Likewise, Darwin opines, the Arum plant emerges from “the class Gynandria, or masculine ladies. The pistil, or female part of the flower, rises like a club,” adding that the “singular and wonderful structure of this flower has occasioned many disputes among botanists” (114).2 Despite the text’s depiction of gender variance, scholars largely argue that Mann ultimately made Sampson conform to a 2 As further evidence of how the narrative lends itself to a transgender reading, consider Alex Myers’s fictional adaption, Revolutionary, which reimagines Sampson as a transmasculine protagonist who comes of age amidst the hardships and male intimacies of wartime. comforting model of early national womanhood. For Hiltner, the text “enabled [Mann] to defuse Sampson’s threatening gender transgression and to tailor an exemplary specimen of Republican Womanhood” (192). Even Sampson’s titillating romantic flirtations with the “Lady from Baltimore” conform to the emerging expectations of the era, which promoted female-female romantic friendship as an “exuberant testimony of the felicitous effects of female chastity upon national health” (Hiltner 207): the discourse of the day considered female-female sexuality no threat to chastity, since penetration presumably did not occur. Mann is indeed prurient (what did happen between Sampson and “a Young Lady of the suburbs of Baltimore,” particularly when the two “tarried” in the “school of animal philosophy” for “the most of two days”?!). But Mann’s depiction is more fraught than Hiltner admits, and his final chapter —which explores a Sampson driven by “propensities” that run dangerously unchecked—is frenetic, looping, marked by dashes, and an overall anxious tone, as Mann confronts the limits of his knowledge: “BUT her correspondence with her sister sex!—Surely it must have been that of sentiment, taste, purity; as animal love, on her part, was out of the question” (59). In other words, how do we explain the intensity of the passion that the two shared, he ponders, since he attributes to each no capacity for lust—or penetration. Mann repeatedly returns to the puzzling question of not merely female infatuation with “the young Continental,” but more troublingly, Sampson’s lingering interest in sustaining these queer and puzzling erotics. He repeatedly appeals: “Why did she not” put out these flames? “Why did she not” teach her fervent lovers how to maintain their chastity? And he concludes, “VENUS knows not but she did: but they were females” (59), as if trying to reassure either himself or his readers (unconvincingly) that Sampson served as a model of female chastity. Ultimately, this account of gender crossing and recrossing cannot be untangled from the theme of wartime anxiety. Mann repeatedly cautions against war, urges conciliation between America and England (“We solicit England to shake hands with COLUMBIA, her natural offspring. Let the banners of war be forever furled, the sword of contention sheathed in its proper place,” he claims in a barely veiled phallic allusion ), and urges conciliation with France (“May a reciprocity of friendship and affection conciliate and cement us more strongly with France, our once helpful and now sister republic” ). Typical of the anxiety of the post-revolutionary age, Mann feared the forces of tyranny everywhere, and as much as Mann advocates for Sampson’s republican virtue and public service, he cannot advocate for continued rebellion (Hiltner 198). To the extent that Sampson offered a conciliatory vision—the ability to navigate opposing worlds (male/female) and to synthesize masculine and female models of virtue, The Female Review offers readers a potentially comforting vision: the possibility of a body (personal and national) reconciling opposing forces, healing itself, and restoring virtuous republican harmony. But this vision competes with Mann’s unresolved anxiety that Sampson’s allure will tempt women out of the domestic sphere and unleash the tumultuous passions of illicit love. His final chapter, obsessed with “revolutions of her sex,” questions whether Sampson has opened the citadels and paved the way for the deflowering of Columbia’s Daughters.
Despite Mann’s appropriation of Sampson’s story and the friction between the historical and literary Sampson, The Female Review must ultimately be understood as an early form of collaborative authorship, and as one of a series of print and public collaborations between Sampson and Mann. Although Mann appropriated Sampson’s story and took liberty with the truth, Sampson chose Mann as amanuensis, and chose to keep collaborating with Mann in the decades that followed. For example, the former soldier went on a speaking tour in 1802, delivering a speech that Mann penned for her, in which “Mrs. Gannett” declared that a woman’s place is “in the kitchen and parlor,” while undermining that message with a show of martial exercises to admiring crowds (qtd. in Hiltner 210). Karen Weyler, in her study of outside authors, observes that Sampson “took collaboration to new levels,” particularly through “her keen awareness of the importance of print in shaping public opinion,” exercising “agency not in writing but in persuading more powerful men to write about her—a process that enabled her celebrity and compels us to reconsider the nature of collaboration” (145, 147). Unlike the captivity narrative, which featured common people, biography, observes Weyler, “was an elite, learned genre, a form of history writing dedicated to great men and women” (152)—but the genre shifted across the eighteenth-century, as marginalized populations increasingly understood themselves as self-fashioners and sought to insert their lives into print (153). Keenly aware of the era’s “gender dynamics of the public sphere,” Sampson used white men–from Mann to Freneau to Paul Revere to General Paterson—as intermediaries who could shape public opinion and persuade the federal government to grant a long-overdue pension.
Traces of this collaboration survived Sampson’s death. Mann asked Sampson’s permission to expand and enlarge the narrative, which Sampson granted—provided he publish the revised narrative posthumously. After Sampson’s death in 1827, Mann would continue to expand, revise, and retell Sampson’s tale, including penning an enlarged 426-page version of The Female Review, a manuscript housed in the Dedham Historical Society. He never published the expanded version. However, in 1866, John Adams Vinton republished the 1797 text, adding copious footnotes and drawing extensively from Mann’s later manuscript. The Vinton edition is a confusing tangle of footnotes and obfuscation, as Vinton uses Mann’s (fictive) manuscript as evidence to refute the claims of Mann’s (fictive) 1797 memoir. Yet the 1866 edition, digitized in Google, is the main way that most readers now encounter Mann’s 1797 text. The following transcription restores the early republican original, extricating it from Vinton’s densely footnoted, frustrating edition.
Gannet, Deborah. An Addr[e]ss Delivered with Applause, At the Federal-Street Theater, Boston . . . By Mrs. Deborah Gannet, The American Heroine. Dedham: H. Mann, 1802.
Dugaw, Dianne. Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989, 1996.
Gustafson, Sandra. “The Genders of Nationalism: Patriotic Violence, Patriotic Sentiment in the Performances of Deborah Sampson Gannett, in Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America. Ed. Robert Blair St. George. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 380-399.
Hiltner, Judith. ‘The Example of our Heroine’: Deborah Sampson and the Legacy of Herman Mann’s The Female Review.” American Studies 41.1 (Spring 2000): 93-113.
—“‘She Bled in Secret’: Deborah Sampson, Herman Mann, and The Female Review.” Early American Literature 34.2 (1999): 190–220.
LaFleur, Greta. “Precipitous Sensations: Herman Mann’s The Female Review, Botanical Sexuality, and the Challenge of Queer Historiography.” Early American Literature 48:1 (2013): 93-123.
Myers, Alex. Revolutionary: A Novel. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Weyler, Karen. Empowering Words: Outsiders and Authorship in Early America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.
Young, Alfred F. Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier. New York: Vintage, 2005.
Suggestions for further reading
Perhaps the earliest study of Deborah Sampson was a biographical portrait in 19C historian Elizabeth Ellet’s The Women of the American Revolution. While Ellet suggests that Sampson’s “heroism and deeds” will no doubt “afford the ground-work of a tragedy or a novel,” she dismisses Mann’s text (which she never read) as a “half tale, half biography” and “not in any means reliable”; see Ellet, The Women of the American Revolution (Baker and Scribner, 1848) vol. II: 122-135. Cathy Davidson classifies the text as an example of the early American female picaresque, concluding that “since” Sampson “retains her power only as long as its inauthentic basis is not revealed either literally or figuratively,” the narrative often “flirts, almost pornographically, with the threat of exposure”; see, Davidson, Revolution and the Word (Oxford University Press, 1986), 169. Karen Weyler insightfully registers Sampson’s agency in shaping public perceptions of her life, suggesting that “by accentuating the performative nature of gender in both Mann’s collaborative biography and in the public oration that she delivered on her speaking tour, [Sampson] framed her masquerade as that of an actor playing a role under the exigent circumstances of revolution”; see Weyler, “An Actor in the Drama of Revolution: Deborah Sampson, Print, and Performance in the Creation of Celebrity,” in Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies (University of Alabama Press, 2006), 183-93. More recently, Weyler has extender her account of Sampson to argue that “as Sampson’s interactions with Philip Freneau, Herman Mann, and Joseph Stone reveal, rather than speak publically for herself, Sampson judiciously but aggressively sought the sympathy and approval of powerful men and then used them as interlocutors for herself in the public sphere”; see, Weyler, Empowering Words: Outsiders and Authorship in Early America (University of Georgia Press, 2013), chapter 4. Judith Hiltner has written extensively on The Female Review, beginning with an essay which considers “the implications of Herman Mann’s appropriation of the experience of Deborah Sampson” as an example of how early American “narratives of female experience” often found their way into print after they had been “tailored to reinforce social norms” by male editors and publishers; see Hiltner, “‘Like A Bewildered Star’: Deborah Sampson, Herman Mann, and Address, Delivered with Applause,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 29:2 (1999), 5-24. Hiltner further contextualizes The Female Review within Mann’s larger body of work as a “republican editor and publisher” in order to exhibit how Mann’s construction of the text was part of his larger agenda to publish appropriate models of “republican virtue.” In so doing, Hiltner uncovers how “Mann’s Deborah Sampson is a composite of a range of historical and fictional identities” which he coopted and deployed in order to “defuse Sampson’s threatening gender transgression and to tailor an exemplary specimen of Republican Womanhood”; see, Hiltner, “‘She Bleed in Secret’: Deborah Sampson, Herman Mann, and The Female Review,” Early American Literature 34:2 (1999), 190-220. Finally, Hiltner examines the cultural impact of Mann’s volume in the aftermath of its publication by tracing how –despite Mann’s intent to cast Sampson as “an androgynous model of early American character” –Sampson “became, for disenfranchised or trapped women, an exemplary activist—a model for transgressing oppressive gender boundaries”; see, Hiltner, “’The Example of our Heroine’: Deborah Sampson and the Legacy of Herman Mann’s The Female Review,” American Studies 41:1 (2000), 93-113. Sandra M. Gustafson traces the public evolution of Sampson’s performativity during her staged lectures, and concludes that “her rapid shifts between the rhetorics of domesticity and antidomesticity, of self-promotion and self-incrimination, reflected her multiple projects: the need to authenticate and justify her military experience at the same time as she attested to her feminine virtue”; see Gustafson, “The Genders of Nationalism: Patriotic Violence, Patriotic Sentiment in the Performances of Deborah Sampson Gannett,” in Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America (Cornell Univ. Press, 2000), 380-399. Lisa Logan considers the impact that Mann’s narrative about Sampson had on other textual masquerades in the nineteenth century, by underscoring how Sampson’s example served to “contest women’s circumscribed position in culture and raise the possibility of alternative scripts for their behavior which might not otherwise be admitted into public discussion”; see Logan, “Columbia’s Daughters in Drag; or, Cross-Dressing, Collaboration, and Authorship in Early The Female Review American Novels,” in Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies (University of Alabama Press, 2006), 240-252. In considering the influence of Mann’s depiction of Sampson on the formation of the plot of Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond (1799), Paul Lewis suggests that “Mann is unwilling” to “explore the interior life of his heroine, leaving both her motives unclear and the potentially comic or erotic scenes involving other women who fall in love with him/her underdramatized”; see Lewis, “Attaining Masculinity: Charles Brockden Brown and Woman Warriors of the 1790s,” Early American Literature 40.1 (2005), 37-55. Finally, Greta LaFleur has recently argued that “Mann’s depictions of Deborah Sampson clearly belie his suspicion that there is something fundamentally different about his protagonist, and Mann charts this difference in naturalist terms, describing her as ‘singular,’ ‘rare,’ and ‘miraculous,’ yet always still ‘natural’”; see, LaFleur, “Precipitous Sensations: Herman Mann’s The Female Review (1797), Botanical Sexuality, and the Challenge of Queer Historiography,” Early American Literature 48.1 (2013), 93-123.
For more scholarship on gender and sexuality in the early Republic we recommend the following collections of essays as starting points: Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies (University of Alabama Press, 2006) edited by Mary C. Carruth, and Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America (NYU Press, 2007), edited by Thomas A. Foster. For more information about Deborah Sampson and her longstanding cultural influence, we recommend Alfred Young’s exhaustively researched modern biography, Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (2005). For a recent fictionalized account of Deborah Sampson’s life which seeks to represent her interiority in more contemporary terms, we recommend Alex Myers’s recent novel Revolutionary (2014). For a contemporary verse sketch of Sampson we recommend Philip Freneau’s 1797 ode entitled “Ode XIII: A Soldier Should Be Made of Sterner Stuff: On Deborah Gannet.” A reprint of Sampson’s 1802 “Addr[e]ss, Delivered with Applause…” appears in ransatlantic Feminisms in the Age of Revolutions (Oxford UP, 2012), ed. L. Moore, J. Brooks, and C. Wigginton.
The following are responses written by participants who have included this text in their teachings.
- Christopher Apap – Revolutionary in many senses of the term
- Caroline Wigginton – A Poor Review
- Laura M. Stevens – Teaching to Teach, with Skype, Willing Colleagues, and The Female Review
- John C. Havard – Teaching The Female Review in a Course on the Literature of the U.S. Revolution
- Gregory D. Specter – Beyond Early American Literature: Teaching The Female Review and Contemporary Works
- Kristina Bross, Marc Diefenderfer, Michelle Campbell, and Amy Elliot – Female Review
- Jon Blandford – Post-Revolutionary Ambivalence in The Female Review
- David Lawrimore – Teaching Collaborative Authorship with The Female Review