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19th History Lecture to Look at Unique Slice of Colonial America

Historian Highlights Role of Print Media in Challenging Society's Norms for Women

October 14, 2011

Christine Ruth Watterson

Christine Ruth Watterson

The colonization of America in the 1700s and the role of newspaper advertisements radically changed the traditional roles of women in Ireland and the colonies, claims historian Christine Ruth Watterson.

Watterson, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, will speak on this unique piece of colonial American history Oct. 26 at the 19th Wilmington College/Daughters of American Colonists Lecture Series at 7:30 p.m. in Kelly Center.

The title of her address is “Scandalous Wives, Scurrilous Charges and Base Seductions: the Role of Newspaper Advertisements in Regulating Household Authority in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland and America.”

Watterson’s study places previously unexplored advertisements in The Belfast Newsletter, between 1737 and 1770, alongside elopement ads found in colonial America.

“Through an analysis of newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic, we can see that women in the eighteenth-century, Anglophone world challenged their husband’s authority, not only by leaving their homes but increasingly through eloquent refutations of the charges laid against them in public print,” she said.

Moreover these newspaper ads were used to enforce community norms in two very distant arenas. She contends that advertisements themselves (and the physical circulation of newspapers across the Atlantic) may have “homogenized marital expectations” far more than has been accepted.

Watterson expects to earn her doctorate this spring.

Her dissertation, titled “Scattered throughout the Nations”: the Formation of a Global Quaker Network 1649-1700, follows the first generation of English Quaker men and women as they sought to bring their faith to the peoples of the American colonies, Ireland, France, Holland, Turkey and lands even farther from England.

She earned her master’s degree in history from Harvard and a Master of Arts degree in English and modern history from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Watterson currently advises and tutors students at Harvard’s Quincy House. She previously spent four years as a teaching fellow at the university. She has received a number of awards for teaching and research.