Nineteenth-century newspaper editor Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884)
was an unconventionally ambitious woman. While she struggled in
private to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, she publicly
critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that
restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and
economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice.
As the owner and editor of newspapers in Pittsburgh; St. Cloud,
Minnesota; and Washington, D.C.; and as one of the founders of the
Minnesota Republican Party, Swisshelm negotiated a significant
place for herself in the male-dominated world of commerce,
journalism, and politics. How she accomplished this feat; what
expressive devices she used; what social, economic, and political
tensions resulted from her efforts; and how those tensions were
resolved are the central questions examined in this biography.
Sylvia Hoffert arranges the book topically, rather than
chronologically, to include Swisshelm in the broader issues of the
day, such as women's involvement in politics and religion, their
role in the workplace, and marriage. Rescuing this prominent
feminist from obscurity, Hoffert shows how Swisshelm laid the
groundwork for the "New Woman" of the turn of the century.