Meet Elizabeth Hutchison: A Strong Advocate of Feminist Recovery

Elizabeth Hutchison is currently a second-year Literature Ph.D. Student at Florida State University. She teaches undergraduate classes as part of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship with the Literature Department at FSU. The scholarship encompasses teaching courses such as Introduction to Literature; Research, Genre, and Context; and Interning in the Reading and Writing Center and Digital Studio. She received her most recent degree, an M.A. in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies, at the University of Central Florida in 2018, and a B.A. in English Literature and Religious Studies from Stetson University in 2015.

We sat down with Elizabeth and asked her about her research regarding feminist recovery.

Her Campus (HC): Why did you decide to research feminist recovery?

Elizabeth Hutchison (EH): Frequently, I had found myself wondering why I could never see myself in American history. This confusion was especially the case in high school and my undergraduate years, in which we read many texts that were neither queer or about women. Much of what we are taught in English and history classes centers on canonized, published literature. So, until more recently in the relative scheme of things, literary studies did not acknowledge American queer women, their personal lives and all that entailed.

HC: What specifically did you research?

EH: During my graduate studies at UCF, I signed up for a class I was very excited about, called “Unruly Women.” Discovering that there was an ongoing project about early American frontier women, one, in particular, being Martha Ballard, and that I could be a part of the conversation in some way was what lead to me discovering my newfound passion. The seminar paper I wrote for that course turned into a conference paper I shared at UCF’s symposium eventually titled, “Creating Private Spaces in Martha Ballard’s Diary.”

Courtesy: Elizabeth Hutchison

HC: Why is this work, in your opinion, so important to women today?

EH: If we begin to acknowledge unpublished works of women and broaden our concepts “literature,” then more scholarly gaps can be filled. Simply put, I see the process of uncovering women’s writing from the late 1700s to the early 1800s as having a massive impact on how literature will be taught in the future.

HC: What were some significant findings of your research?

EH: Some things I found were that birthing parties were essential to the status of families, in that they delineated the legitimacy of a child, but also the mother. This ultimately provided women with a form of agency in the very private area of women’s lives. Also, solidarity in the birthing experience ultimately created a private space in which public matters could be discussed routinely. This finding is a big deal because it is evidence of how women were a large part of the public arena, despite what our earlier notions might have been. Finally, women were often placed in dire situations together regarding childbirth, as 1 in 30 women died giving birth during this time. With this shared experience, Martha Ballard possessed a type of space exclusive of men, one that gave her a great deal of authority and social mobility. This type of solidarity is distinct and feminine, forming a self-sustaining community, as well as a professional life for Ballard.

HC: Anything else you would like others to know?

EH: I would recommend that anyone read Martha Ballard's diary if you are interested in research for feminist recovery!

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