Imagined Landscapes: Geography, Identity, and Gender in the Early American Republic, 1785-1835
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In the decades that followed the American Revolution, members of the new nation began to embrace the American landscape as a point of connection between themselves and their fellow citizens. At the same time, geography became an increasingly significant component of a student’s education. By studying the nation’s boundaries and learning its terrain, students were able to envision the nation beyond the borders of their own town or county. In doing so, they could begin to think of the nation not just as an idea, but also as a tangible reality. By engaging with the American landscape through geography, they could also begin to explore their own identities as American citizens. In this project, I examine the critical role that geography played in the education of young women in America between 1785 and 1835. To accomplish this, I have divided my analysis into four main components. First, I explore the educational opportunities available to young women in the decades immediately following the American Revolution. Next, I examine the pedagogical debates that changed the way instructors taught geography during the early nineteenth century. After establishing the historical and pedagogical contexts that surrounded geography instruction during this time, I reconstruct a variety of methods that students employed to aid their understanding of this subject. These included specialized forms of writing, recitation, drawing, and embroidery. Finally, I examine how young women expressed their personal experiences and perceptions of American landscapes through the creation of embroidered samplers and pictorial needlework.