Live and Let Live; or Domestic Service Illustrated
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837. First edition. BAL second state, without the period following the word Illustrated on the title page. Original green publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine. Some rubbing to extremities and boards. In all square and sound. Small stains to front endpapers. Early ownership signature to header of title. With less foxing than typical. Collating viii, 9-216, 16: complete, retaining publisher's catalogue to rear. With one appearance at auction in the last 45 years and no other copies on the market, this important work depicting the experiences of American working-class women has become quite scarce.
"As the United States was finding a national identity, writers of the time were creating a distinctive American literature. Catherine Maria Sedgwick was a novelist who contributed greatly to the new American writing of this age" (Wolfanger). Unafraid of using her platform for social reform, Sedgwick tackled uncomfortable questions about the U.S.' founding principles; and her work exposed how the problematic systems these principles perpetuated affected women. In Live and Let Live, Sedgwick is particularly concerned about the unethical, dangerous, and inhumane conditions often faced by working women. Following the protagonist Lucy as she enters domestic service, readers witness practices not unfamiliar today -- the manipulation of immigrant workers, the demand for additional labor without additional pay, the exposure to harassment. What Lucy witnesses and experiences is more than a simple critique of the system. It is a call to action for readers, and female readers specifically, to make positive change in their own behaviors. After all, Sedgwick recognized that the majority of her readers would be women, and that her task was to get them to sympathize with the working class and not the elite characters. "To my young Countrywomen -- The future ministers of the charities of home, this volume is dedicated," she begins the book. Continuing, "the writer of the following pages begs her readers will have the kindness to remember that her business has been to illustrate the failures of one party in the contract between employers and employed...I shall be satisfied if it rouses more active minds than mine to reflect upon the duties and capabilities of mistresses of families; if it quicken some sleeping consciences; if it make any feel their duties and obligations to their 'inferiors in position.'"
BAL17373. Feminist Companion 962. Near Fine (Item #3944)