The Romance of Independence: Working Women in Nineteenth-Century Telegraph Literature

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This article examines the ways in which telegraph fiction by women authors imagined heroines whose jobs allowed them to subvert gender norms and take control of their lives. This fiction simultaneously challenged the assumptions of male writers about women telegraph operators and rewrote the genre conventions of sentimental fiction. Writers such as Lida A. Churchill and Ella Cheever Thayer represented the telegraph office as a site of professional and personal development in which disembodied communication over the telegraph uniquely transcended divisions of gender, space, and social sphere. This essay will discuss three areas in which telegraph work benefited women: financial independence, greater romantic freedom, and increased peer community support. It argues that this long-overlooked microgenre of fiction is significant from both a literary and historical perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-90
Number of pages26
JournalTulsa Studies in Womens Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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