ABSTRACT

Starting from the shocking representation of Sara Baartman as the ‘Hottentot Venus’, this chapter explores representations of women in the context of normative discourse, versus caricatures of deviance, in nineteenth-century America. The chapter looks at emergent religious groups and social movements to uncover how the white Protestant ideal of domesticity, on the wings of the Great Awakenings, the ideal of womanhood served to subjugate others at home and colonize the world. New religious movements, such as Shakers and Mormons, often faced violence and discrimination for their construction of women's identity and domestic relationships along alternative lines. The arrival of large numbers of Catholic women in the nineteenth century also challenged the norm, leading to Nativist movements and political parties. The Catholic nun was a popular target in sensationalist fiction, countered by Catholic novels, which villainized Protestants. Women of colour were depicted in art and literature as Jezebel or Mammy, hyper-sexualized and then blamed for the perceived immorality of their communities. However, the chapter demonstrates the agency of women of colour in self-representation, challenging racial stereotypes. Globally, missionaries encountered rich indigenous cultures, where presuppositions and colonializing motivation shaped representations of both the missionary and the missionized.