This essay analyzes two popular biographies on historical women to interrogate how a focus on gender has shaped the genre: Nancy Ruben Stuart’s The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation (2008) and Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (2013). I argue that biographers who perpetuate gender stereotypes miss a momentous opportunity during the current life writing boom in the United States to educate readers on women’s social, cultural, and political contributions worldwide. In proposing that feminist-informed biographies are more accurate, complete, and make social and cultural interventions, I discuss how these texts celebrate women’s abilities and successes and, thus, counter patriarchal interpretations of history.
Seethaler, Ina C.. 2018. "Emancipating the Passive Muse: A Call for a Feminist Approach to Writing Biographies on Historical Women." Journal of Feminist Scholarship 15 (Fall): 37-48. 10.23860/jfs.2018.15.04.
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