|Alice's copy of China Collecting in America|
Earle’s books were carefully researched and thoroughly documented, but because she wrote for a popular audience, she was dismissed by some academic historians as a writer of mere “pots-and-pans history.” It was not until the 1980s, with the development of women’s history and material culture studies, that Earle came to be appreciated as a pioneer in both of these areas. However, very little has been written about her, in part because she left behind no personal papers and hardly any other biographical material. Williams thus had to piece together Earle’s life and career from a variety of other sources—genealogical research, scattered correspondence in various archives, conversations with descendants, and Earle’s own published works.
|Alice Morse in 1873, just before |
her marriage to Henry Earle
|Earle frequently photographed her children in gardens and |
|Earle preferred to use photographs to illustrate her books whenever possible,|
believing they were more accurate than drawings. This one is from Stagecoach and Tavern Days, 1900.
As Williams notes, Earle felt some ambivalence about her role as both wife and mother and professional writer. She took her mothering duties very seriously but also felt constrained by middle-class gender norms at times; she felt that women had a duty to improve themselves and their communities but never publicly aligned herself with any of the groups advocating for radical social change (we don’t even know if she supported women’s suffrage). Similarly, while her books celebrated women’s traditional domestic role in the colonial era, they also made it quite clear that women’s work was absolutely central to the social and economic fabric of pre-industrial America.
|Earle hoped that this book cover, designed using the |
blue-and-buff color scheme of the Colonial Dames of
America, would appeal to members of that organization.