Narratives of Feminine Heroism

Janice Hume, “Narratives of Feminine Heroism: Gender Values and Memory in the American Press,” Simon Wendt, ed., Extraordinary Ordinariness: Everyday Heroism in the United States, Germany, and Britain from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century (Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag, 2016), 139-165.

Abstract: This essay considers the American heroine as portrayed in life and death on the pages of newspapers and magazines. Journalists use, and sometimes misuse, the term “hero” as a type of news frame, a tradition of highlighting extraordinary feats of individuals.  In the United States, journalistic references to heroism both increased and evolved as the press discovered new methods of news gathering and reportage in the mid nineteenth century. Technological and cultural changes that gave way to a “mass” press encouraged the rise of human-interest journalism, which included stories about heroic figures. As these stories became more and more common, heroes and heroic attributes became increasingly egalitarian. Yet they were not inclusive. Heroes in the nineteenth-century American press were predominantly white and male, and they represented values of nation building and westward expansion. National heroines were virtually nonexistent, yet the attributes of female heroism were part of press content. 

Janice Hume 

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