The Life and Writings of Betsey Chamberlain: Native American Mill Worker

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Northeastern University Press, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 284 pages
During the 1830s and 1840s, Betsey Guppy Chamberlain (1797-1886), a mixed-race writer of English and Algonkian heritage, labored in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, where she penned colorful stories and sketches for two workers' magazines -- the Lowell Offering and The New England Offering. A courageous and pioneering author, Chamberlain wrote the earliest known Native American fiction and published some of the earliest prose to challenge the persecution of Native people and affirm their dignity and worth.

The life and works of this remarkable and multi-faceted woman are now recovered from obscurity in this volume, which collects for the first time thirty-four of Chamberlain's richly varied contributions. Organized in three thematic sections (Native Tales and Dream Visions; "The Unprivileged Sex": Women's Concerns; and Village Sketches), the captivating writings range from humorous autobiographical sketches of New England life to protest pieces that raise consciousness about the treatment of Native people, excessive mill hours and poor working conditions, and the oppression of women. Drawn from Euro-American and Native oral literary traditions, Chamberlain's fiction and other prose shed new light on nineteenth-century American working women and illuminate the multicultural roots of New England writing.

The volume, which features a comprehensive biographical and critical introduction based on literary detective work and meticulous research, restores to history the significant contributions of this Native American writer, feminist, and humorist.

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About the author (2003)

Judith A. Ranta is an independent scholar and reference librarian. She is the author of Women and Children of the Mills: An Annotated Guide to Nineteenth-Century American Textile Factory Literature. She lives in White Plains, New York.