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Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn
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Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn
Visions of Youth in Middle-Class America, 1780-1850

Rodney Hessinger

264 pages | 6 x 9 | 9 illus.
Cloth 2005 | ISBN 9780812238792 | $59.95s | Outside the Americas £48.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Early American Studies
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"Offering keen insight derived from a wide range of sources, from eighteenth-century literature to institutional records, Seduced, Abandoned, and Rebornis important reading for scholars of gender, youth, and class in the early republic."—Journal of the Early Republic

"Politicians, preachers, and pundits prattle about family values, but this lovely little book engages our actual experience of the family as those self-appointed moralists never manage to do. Rodney Hessinger is a gifted historian who catches compellingly the dilemmas with which those who meant to regulate the young had to deal and the strategies they developed to deal with them. Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn is the real deal. It will reorient our understanding of family life in the early American republic."—Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

"Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn is an important new study of the cultural history of the early republic; it makes significant contributions to the historical literatures on gender, sexuality, reform, popular culture, and the middle-class in early America. It is built upon a solid base of original archival research, and it offers new perspectives on a wide ranging set of historical questions. Hessinger's book will have a broad appeal for students and scholars across a variety of disciplines."—Bruce Dorsey, author of Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City

"An important contribution to our understanding of antebellum bourgeois culture and the dialectical power plays enacted by its youth and their elders."—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn exposes the fears expressed by elders about young people in the early American republic. Those authors, educators, and moral reformers who aspired to guide youth into respectable stations perceived new dangers in the decades following independence. Battling a range of seducers in the burgeoning marketplace of early America, from corrupt peers to licentious prostitutes, from pornographic authors to firebrand preachers, these self-proclaimed moral guardians crafted advice and institutions for youth, hoping to guide them safely away from harm and toward success. By penning didactic novels and advice books while building reform institutions and colleges, they sought to lead youth into dutiful behavior. But, thrust into the market themselves, these moral guides were forced to compromise their messages to find a popular audience. Nonetheless, their calls for order did have lasting impact. In urban centers in the Northeast, middle-class Americans became increasingly committed to their notions of chastity, piety, and hard work.

Focusing on popular publications and large urban centers, Hessinger draws a portrait of deeply troubled reformers, men and women, who worried incessantly about the vulnerability of youth to the perils of prostitution, promiscuity, misbehavior, and revolt.

Benefiting from new insights in cultural history, Seduced, Abandoned, and Reborn looks at the way the categories of gender, age, and class took rhetorical shape in the early republic. In trying to steer young adults away from danger, these advisors created values that came to define the emerging middle class of urban America.

Rodney Hessinger teaches history at Hiram College.

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