Representation of Women in History Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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Throughout American history, women have been the backbone of the country, working at taking care of their families, and the country itself. The recognition of this is shown by the different representations of America in a female context. Whether as a insolent young Native American princess who has wronged her British mother, or as Roman goddess Columbia in her long, flowing white robes.

            The major change in the way America was represented pictorially was brought about by Phillis Wheatley in 1775, when she sent her poem to George Washington describing America as a goddess called Columbia. The people at the time were quick to identify with this new interpretation as they wanted to distance themselves from the negative British representations of America as a Native American woman who was young and disobeying of her parental figure. Also at that time, colonists were thinking of America as a place of self-knowledge and exploration, creating libraries and other places of study, complete with mock Roman architecture that enforced the feeling of the new Rome, and they liked the fact that Columbia was shown as a Roman goddess of sorts.

            When looking at the differences in the print by Edward Savage and the print dated 1866, there can be seen a change from Savages peaceful looking goddess Columbia, and then the armed fighting women that are in the 1866 picture. The earlier picture dated as 1796 shows Liberty wearing a wreath of flowers around her, offering a cup to an eagle and surrounded by billowing clouds and showing her upfront, away from any violence. The latter drawing from 1866 shows three women, two holding the flag pole, and one with a sword still fighting, surrounded by people. This picture comes at the end of the Revolution era, and depicts Americas fighting spirit which has emerged from the battle.

            When looking at the example of the Eighteenth century book, Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson, the influence of the Columbian ideal can be shown by the book being of the seduction genre, which was very popular in that era. This type of story touched many in the nation, as people related their worrying about how they stood after going against Britain to the seduction of a young female who was brought the new land, and then tricked into getting pregnant, only to be left to die on her own. Many wondered would America suffer that same fate as the seduced young woman, or would the country triumph as the new goddess, Columbia. It is no surprise that during such a perilous time in history that people were drawn to these seduction genre stories to the point of believing in their hearts that Rowsons work was non-fiction, which is wasnt.

            The recent 2005 portrait of Sacajawea is a new drawing on a golden dollar coin. She is shown as looking back, her hair drawn back, and having her son, Jean Baptiste strapped to her. This representation of her is striking with her large, dark eyes, and her true Native American features which are very pronounced and stunning. In earlier representations of Native American women, the facial features are all very close to what the features of drawings of white women at the time. These earlier images were closer to the facial likeness of early pictures of Columbia.

            The United States mint clearly made this coin to represent the anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, dated 1804. The recent golden dollar was dated 2005, which means that it was conceived of and based on a 2004 date, exactly 200 years apart. The coin is also meant to commemorate the Native American people themselves in history.

            The representation of Columbia in American history can be seen as the evolution of the country itself. As society grew, and the perception of what it meant to be an American changed, the figures of women changed with it. The spirit of Columbia is equated with the spirit of our nation, and the artistry used to show that spirit in female form is still being used today, represented by the Sacajawea coin, celebrating the community ideal of what is is to be American.

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