“As our Caucasian barristers are not to blame if they cannot quite put themselves in the dark man’s place, neither should the dark man be wholly expected fully and adequately to reproduce the exact Voice of the Black Woman” (Cooper, 1892 cited on vii). Allowing the black woman to speak for herself allows her to demonstrate that she was seizing her authority, claiming her rights as a free and thinking person and offering up her own personal story as a transformative tool for her readers on a political and spiritual level (xxix). Once the material has been introduced in this way, it is possible to read the texts to follow with greater understanding about the context in which they were written and why the writers concentrated so heavily on their subjects. Following the introduction, the book offers a collection of four black female writers, each speaking with their own voice and published from the original manuscript as much as possible. They are arranged in chronological order from earliest to latest. The earliest writer is Mrs. Maria Stewart writing at 1835. She is followed by Mrs. Jarena Lee in 1849, Julia Foote in 1886 and ending with Virginia Broughton in 1907. As one reads through these various texts, this inner strength and desire to be a leader of men remains clear.
The first book included in the set is entitled “Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart” and was published by the Friends of Freedom and Virtue in Boston, Mass. in 1835. It is an autobiography that focuses primarily upon the reflections and revelations of the author following her conversion experience. The biography prior to this conversion experience is completed within a paragraph:
I was born in Hartford, Conn. In 1803; was left an orphan at five years of age; was bound out to a clergyman’s family; had the seeds of piety and virtue early sown in my mind;