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In her lecture "Hawthorne and 'the sphere of ordinary womanhood'," Melinda Ponder addresses Hawthorne's youth and the important roles that women had in his development.

Hawthorne's fiction offers rich images of women--their changing lives, frustrations and dreams--that still resonate for today's readers. And no wonder-he probably got much of his early story material from women, he knew about and respected the complexity of women's lives, he had been writing for women readers all his life (very successfully), shaping his work for their eyes, and he had been surrounded by unusually gifted literate women whose creative talents had helped him shape his own work. It would have been surprising if Hawthorne hadn't understood and portrayed the wide variety of women around him who inspired and challenged him to make their concerns a visible reality to his readers.

Because of various circumstances in his childhood, Hawthorne grew up amidst the "infinite variety" of talented and supportive females of his childhood family (Moore 233). They set the pattern for the women who followed them; with their quick minds, love of reading and writing and responsive minds and hearts, they were Hawthorne's first collaborators, ideal readers, editors, marketing agents, and emotional and financial supporters.

Women were also probably Hawthorne's first source of good literary material. With the oral tradition of local tales and legends alive and well in Salem's "chimney corners", Hawthorne probably heard the kind of "old woman's stories…[with] ten times the life in them" (qtd in Moore, 26, from "Etheridge": CE 12:150) from his grandmothers, aunts, cousins and hired women.

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11565/

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