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T
he Aristocrat and Trades Union Advocate, an 1834 pamphlet poem by a
“working woman of Boston,” offers a striking commentary on the meaning
of industrialism and its much trumpeted “progress” for working people. One of
the first works of trade- union imaginative literature published by an American,
the poem initiates the tradition of antebellum working- class women’s writing
examined in this book. Dedicated to members of the Boston Trades Union,
the poem purportedly records a conversation overheard between the parties
named in its title during a Fourth of July procession—a frame that positions the
working- class woman writer as a witness to male politics, a medium, and a scribe
of male voices. The poem thus could be seen as allegorizing the gendered (and
racialized) politics of class during the antebellum period, when working- class
dissent, linked to a recently enfranchised white working- class manhood, was
predicated on feminine subordination and silence.1 However, the text also af-
firms, in complex ways, female discursive and literary authority. Using a lengthy
preface— a frequent feature of poetry of this type—to register her relation to
Introduction
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