Anonymous Reader to Editor
31 January 2019
To the Editor:
In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to his publisher, “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women.” Although he was referring specifically to sentimental novelists, his letter expressed the larger belief that women’s writing was not worth reading or publishing, that their words and ideas didn’t matter, and that their work was, to use the language of Hawthorne, “trash.”
As a historian, I see this playing out not only in the antebellum period, but also in the postwar era when I read letters to the editor. As I scan through various national newspapers, day after day, year after year, I find myself hoping that someday, eventually, women will be represented proportionally. I am always disappointed; they always skew male.
Perhaps Hawthorne’s disdain for scribbling women is not such distant history.
This problem is especially concerning because unlike an Op-Ed — where the writer presumably has some expertise in the subject matter — anybody can submit a letter to the editor. It is, I’d argue, the most democratic section of the paper because children and adults, billionaire philanthropists and minimum-wage workers, and people of all genders can contribute.
Read the full article in the New York Times.