“The Circle Of Your Acquaintance”: Early 19th Century Ceramic Symbolism and Constructions of Black Womanhood at the Boston-Higginbotham House, Nantucket, MA
Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Nedra K. Lee
Christa M. Beranek
David B. Landon
During the early 19th century, ideologies of womanhood were beginning to solidify in the national discourse of the United States. The concept of domesticity, the process of homemaking through material and spiritual means, was a key aspect of womanhood during this time, the transition from the Early Republic to the Victorian period. These ideals were prescribed to white middle- and upper-class women but were altered by Black women to serve their needs and adopted to combat negative stereotypes of Black people in a society permeated with racism. This was evident in the work of Maria W. Stewart, the first Black woman political writer, who orated and wrote from Boston in the early 1830s speaking directly to Black women about their roles as mothers and active community members. The archaeological ceramics corresponding to the household of Mary Boston Douglass, a free Black woman living in the community of New Guinea on Nantucket, serves as a case study to examine the lived experiences of free Black women during the 1820s-1830s and their engagement with ideologies of gender. This thesis uses an intersectional approach to interpret ceramic pattern symbolism and vessel forms from the Boston-Higginbotham House site. Supported by the political writings of Stewart, discourses on Black womanhood documented by scholars, and comparative analysis of two contemporary sites, this analysis suggests that Mary’s selection of ceramic wares, and the patterns that adorned them, were used to create what bell hooks calls “homeplace” through the daily consumption of ideas of aspiration and motherhood.
Herzing, Lissa J., "“The Circle Of Your Acquaintance”: Early 19th Century Ceramic Symbolism and Constructions of Black Womanhood at the Boston-Higginbotham House, Nantucket, MA" (2022). Graduate Masters Theses. 723.