This project examines women as represented in the 19th century society of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ The Silent Partner. As the paper positions discussion of the primary text, it considers 19th century female authorship and its unique perspective in portraying women by utilizing their own voice, imagination and analysis, in considering women’s traditional roles, expectations of male privilege, and its power to silence. Critical reviews of Phelps’ writing highlight the predisposed roles and spheres typically noted as feminine and consider unclaimed territory and possibilities through the characters of The Silent Partner. The project argues that Phelps’ female protagonists, Perley Kelso and Sip Garth, represent structural changes in the construct and balance of gender roles, illustrated through attainment of personal freedom and access to language; “Woman” unencumbered by the constraints of marriage and men, now armed with language and the ability to make choices about their lives, speak.
KEY WORDS: gender, 19th century female authors, literary criticism, Phelps, langauge