Jane Grey Swisshelm

An Unconventional Life, 1815-1884

By Sylvia D. Hoffert

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1474-8
    Published: March 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7588-9
    Published: January 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7707-9
    Published: January 2011

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Nineteenth-century newspaper editor Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884) was an unconventionally ambitious woman. While she struggled in private to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, she publicly critiqued and successfully challenged gender conventions that restricted her personal behavior, limited her political and economic opportunities, and attempted to silence her voice.

As the owner and editor of newspapers in Pittsburgh; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C.; and as one of the founders of the Minnesota Republican Party, Swisshelm negotiated a significant place for herself in the male-dominated world of commerce, journalism, and politics. How she accomplished this feat; what expressive devices she used; what social, economic, and political tensions resulted from her efforts; and how those tensions were resolved are the central questions examined in this biography. Sylvia Hoffert arranges the book topically, rather than chronologically, to include Swisshelm in the broader issues of the day, such as women's involvement in politics and religion, their role in the workplace, and marriage. Rescuing this prominent feminist from obscurity, Hoffert shows how Swisshelm laid the groundwork for the "New Woman" of the turn of the century.

About the Author

Sylvia D. Hoffert is professor of history and women's studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is author of When Hens Crow: The Woman's Rights Movement in Antebellum America and Private Matters: American Attitudes toward Childbearing and Infant Nurture in the Urban North, 1800-1860.
For more information about Sylvia D. Hoffert, visit the Author Page.


"A beautifully written and carefully constructed biography."--Annals of Iowa

"A talented writer, Hoffert . . . compellingly and thoughtfully engages the entire range of issues affecting women in the 19th century."--Choice

"Brilliant and imaginative. Teachers of courses on various subjects that engage with nineteenth-century gender relations will be grateful."--American Historical Review

"Readers interested in nineteenth-century reformers, their ideas and motivations, women’s rights and property issues, and the movement of women into occupations such as newspaper editing and ownership will benefit from Hoffert’s work.”--Minnesota History

"Hoffert provides a balanced view of Swisshelm's life."--American Journalism

"At last, we have a biography that does justice to the life of this fascinating and feisty woman. Sylvia Hoffert has rescued Jane Grey Swisshelm from the fog of the past and brought her into focus as the crusading journalist and women's rights activist her contemporaries knew. Her observant account of Swisshelm's personal and professional struggles will resonate deeply with modern readers."--Anne M. Boylan, University of Delaware