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Manhood Lost Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States by Elaine Frantz Parsons

Manhood Lost Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Part of the New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History Series


Manhood Lost Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States by Elaine Frantz Parsons

In fiction, drama, poems, and pamphlets, nineteenth-century reformers told the familiar tale of the decent young man who fell victim to demon rum: Robbed of his manhood by his first drink, he slid inevitably into an abyss of despair and depravity. In its discounting of the importance of free will, argues Elaine Frantz Parsons, this story led to increased emphasis on environmental influences as root causes of drunkenness, poverty, and moral corruption-thus inadvertently opening the door to state intervention in the form of Prohibition. Parsons also identifies the emergence of a complementary narrative of female invasion -womanhood as a moral force powerful enough to sway choice. As did many social reformers, women temperance advocates capitalized on notions of feminine virtue and domestic responsibilities to create a public role for themselves. Entering a distinctively male space-the saloon-to rescue fathers, brothers, and sons, women at the same time began to enter another male bastion-politics-again justifying their transgression in terms of rescuing the nation's manhood.


A lively and sophisticated intellectual history... Manhood Lost furnishes new evidence for the centrality of the drink debate to nineteenth-century culture. * Journal of American History * Manhood Lost deserves a wide readership among historians of gender, temperance, and the nineteenth-century United States. -- Scott C. Martin * Journal of the Early Republic * Parsons makes a convincing argument for a much closer connection between discourses of women's rights and temperance in the nineteenth century. -- Thomas Winter * Journal of Social History * A fresh perspective on the ways in which nineteenth-century participants in America's temperance debate understood the roles of men and women and the relationships between individuals and their environment. -- Michelle M. Morgan * History of Education Quarterly * Its findings will be embraced enthusiastically by scholars affiliated with the emergent field of alcohol and addiction studies. -- John W. Crowley * American Historical Review * A provocative, fascinating, and elegant book. -- David M. Fahey * Historian * Parsons offers a fresh perspective on one of the more turgid chapters in American history: the temperance movement of the 19th century. She identifies a pervasive genre-the so-called 'drunkard narrative'-and uses it to uncover strains in how contemporaries thought about free will, individual responsibility and sexual inversion. -- Jessica Warner * Addiction * An intriguing, well written, and thought-provoking study that deserves a wide audience among American cultural historians. -- Laura R. Prieto * American Nineteenth Century History *

About the Author

Elaine Frantz Parsons teaches American history at Duquesne University.

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Book Info

Publication date

25th June 2009


Elaine Frantz Parsons

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Johns Hopkins University Press


256 pages


Social & cultural history
Illness & addiction: social aspects
Gender studies, gender groups
History of the Americas
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900



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