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An intricate network of contacts developed among women in Europe and North America over the course of the nineteenth century. These women created virtual communities through communication, support, and a shared ideology. Forged across boundaries of nationality, language, ethnic origin, and even class, these connections laid the foundation for the 1888 International Council of Women and formed the beginnings of an international women's movement. This matrix extended throughout England and the Continent and included Scandinavia and Finland. In a remarkable display of investigative research, Margaret McFadden describes the burgeoning avenues of communication in the nineteenth century that led to an explosion in the number of international contacts among women. This network blossomed because of increased travel opportunities; advances in women's literacy and education; increased activity in the temperance, abolitionist, and peace reform movements; and the emergence of female evangelicals, political revolutionaries, and expatriates. Particular attention is paid to five women whose decades of work helped give birth to the women's movement by century's end. These “mothers of the matrix" include Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of the United States, Anna Doyle Wheeler of Ireland, Fredrika Bremer of Sweden, and Frances Power Cobbe of England. Despite their philosophic differences, these leaders recognized the value of friendship and advocacy among women and shared an affinity for bringing together people from different cultural settings. McFadden demonstrates without question that the traditions of transatlantic female communication are far older than most historians realize and that the women's movement was inherently international. No other scholar has painted so complete a picture of the golden cables that linked the women who saw the Atlantic and the borders within Europe as bridges rather than barriers to improving their status.
Margaret McFadden, professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and founder of the Women's Studies Program at Appalachian State University, is the editor of NWSA journal.
"Students of women’s history will find an assemblage that illuminates the effect on women of a developing transatlantic context."—Contemporary Sociology
"What is so remarkable about the book is that it confirms what we know had to be—namely that there was a precondition for the women's movement, and that it was global. McFadden has made that past come alive."—Dana Greene, St. Mary's College of Maryland
"Demonstrates without a question that the tradition of transatlantic communication are far older than most historians realize and that the women’s movement was inherently international."—Educational Book Review
"Impressively researched and important. . . . Helps open the way to a whole further area of exploration in women’s history."—Historian
"Replete with notes and bibliography, this women’s studies book . . . plows new ground."—Journal of the West
"A pioneering, wide-ranging work. This study will pave the way to new discoveries about nineteenth-century feminist networks, as well as clarify the complexity of their linkages."—Karen Offen, Stanford University
"A highly original and interdisciplinary work. McFadden argues that a variety of connections among women throughout the nineteenth century underlay the emergence of the international women's organizations at the end of the century. This is an important argument not made anywhere else."—Leila Rupp, Ohio State University
"An excellent introduction to a number of important women and the ways they communicated."—Library Journal
"What has previously been a gray area of assumptions about the precursors to the international women’s organizations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been made clear and explicit by McFadden’s work."—NWSA Journal
"Wide-ranging and engaging. . . . McFadden has recreated a nineteenth-century world of female association."—Ohio History
"McFadden’s thorough research, particularly on women who might not be familiar to an Anglo-American audience, is remarkable."—Victorian Studies
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Feminism, Women's rights
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
McFadden, Margaret H., "Golden Cables of Sympathy: The Transatlantic Sources of Nineteenth-Century Feminism" (1999). Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. 2.