Tocqueville and Beaumont noted numerous differences between France and the United States; one of the most striking was the status of women--their domestic roles, their freedom in youth, their responsibilities in marriage, and their importance to the moral and religious life of the republic. In diaries and letters, Tocqueville and Beaumont observed all manner of social gatherings and recorded the conversations with prominent American citizens on a number of matters, including morality and the status of women.
How accurate was the picture of women in Democracy in America? What parts of women's lives did Tocqueville and Beaumont miss? Were there classes of women missing entirely? To answer these questions, it's helpful to look at the contemporary accounts of other travelers. There was much agreement among the foreigners about what they saw; for instance, others besides Tocqueville and Beaumont commented on the fate of mulatto women in New Orleans, and the generally lower quality of the arts and music in the U.S. But there was also quite a bit that Tocqueville and Beaumont didn't see: for example, they commented only briefly on the Shakers and on the emotional involvement of women in revivals and camp meetings; they missed the mill workers in Lowell, Massachusetts; and they largely omitted the lives of plantation mistresses and female slaves.
The eighteen travelers included here--Irish, German, Scotch, English, and French--pieced together form a more complete and varied picture of the life of American women than can be gleaned from the text of Democracy in America alone.
The texts can be accessed two ways: first, by a chronological listing of authors, each accompanied by brief introductory remarks framing the visit and providing comparison to the ideas of the other travelers; and second, by a topical listing, so that the ideas of several authors on one subject may be more directly compared.
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Note on the page border: Covers and endpapers with a marbled appearance were commonly used decorative elements in nineteenth century publishing. The marbled border used here is a scanned copy of the endpaper of the 1836 edition of Michel Chevalier's Letters on North America, one of the texts included in this site.