The feminist we never knew we needed: digitally archiving and recovering the works of Fanny Fern

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Haley Jones (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Risa Applegarth

Abstract: This thesis, divided into two chapters, examines how Fanny Fern’s columns and words have either been lost or taken out of their original context (such as in the use of the phrase: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”) and provides an overview of how this context has been slanted given dominating canons, and further examines the dominant canon in relation to active public memory, feminist rhetoric and scholarship. The first chapter of this dissertation seeks to insinuate a connection between intentional acts of forgetting and remembering to maintain a certain social order. Throughout my dissertation, I assert the idea of active remembering and how the current canon uses this act to uphold male writers over female writers, indicating my engagement with public memory scholarship in rhetoric and writing studies. The thesis then explores the intentional squandering of female writers in comparison to their male counterparts through the act of remembering, which can alternatively be recoded to benefit feminist rhetoric, such as in the incorporation of Fanny Fern (and other female writers) into the modern, while also combatting the current male-dominated canon. My research then shifts into its final section, in which I make a rationale for creating a digital archive to promote active remembrance of Fanny Fern as an important 19th century rhetorician, activist, satirist, and public commentator. In the second chapter, I recount the creation of Fanny Fern’s digital archive, starting with twenty columns selected from her works that insinuate, in my opinion, a connective theme to modern day society thus giving them relevancy in current public memory. I argue against the scholarship that an archive is passive since I see it as a useful building block for my overall goal of reinserting Fern into the public sphere of memory. It is not my intention to simply “place” this archive on the internet, where it simply serves as an additive; instead, I hope to make Fern’s writing engaging and interesting among a new generation; a generation that arguably needs her championing of females now more than ever. This chapter covers the process of the initial creation of a digital archive, and then analyzes rhetorical devices utilized throughout the site’s implementation. I also reflect on the creation of other modes of memory and assertion, such as a Twitter bot among other social media platforms to promote Fern and her publicly accessible archive. This also means the inclusion of both an academic and a public audience. It is my goal to give Fanny Fern’s writing a medium in which she can reach new audiences, ones that she would have never dreamed of reaching. Fanny Fern’s writing belongs in the present, and much like the digital medium on which she will be hosted, it is my intent to provide Fern’s writing with a new audience that will evolve and utilize her words to their maximum potential.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Archive, Digital Rhetoric, Fanny Fern, Feminist, Feminist Rhetoric, Sarah Payson Willis Parton
Fern, Fanny, $d 1811-1872
Women journalists $z United States $x History $y 19th century
Feminism and literature $z United States $x History $y 19th century
Archival materials $x Digitization

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