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A Suffragist Satirizes July 4th Celebrations

Fannie Fern (1811-1872) was the pen name of Sara Willis Parton, a New England writer whose ridicule of antebellum gender expectations won her wide popularity. This short sketch uses humor to point out the many ways that nineteenth-century women lacked the independence enjoyed by men.


"FOURTH OF JULY." Well—I don’t feel patriotic. Perhaps I might if they would stop that deafening racket. Washington was very well, if he couldn’t spell, and I'm glad we are all free; but as a woman—I shouldn’t know it, didn’t some orator tell me. Can I go out of an evening without a hat at my side? Can I go out with one on my head without danger of a station-house? Can I clap my hands at some public speaker when I am nearly bursting with delight? Can I signify the contrary when my hair stands on end with vexation? Can I stand up in the cars "like a gentleman" without being immediately invited "to sit down"? Can I get into an omnibus without having my sixpence taken from my hand and given to the driver? Can I cross Broadway without having a policeman tackled to my helpless elbow? Can I go see anything pleasant, like an execution or a dissection? Can I drive that splendid "Lantern,"¹ distancing, like his owner—all competitors? Can I have the nomination for "Governor of Vermont," like our other contributor, John G. Saxe?² Can I be a Senator, that I may hurry up that millennial International Copyright law?³ Can I even be President? Bah—you know I can’t. "Free!" Humph!

¹ A horse belonging to Robert Bonner, Fern's editor

² John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), a poet and frequent contributor to magazines, ran for governor of Vermont in 1859 and 1860.

³ Fern supported an international copyright law to protect authors from having their works pirated in other countries.

Source | Paul Lauter, ed. Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol. B, 5th Ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 2107.
Creator | Fanny Fern (Sara Willis Parton)
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Fanny Fern (Sara Willis Parton), “A Suffragist Satirizes July 4th Celebrations,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 4, 2023,

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