L.H. Sigourney: An Ecofeminist Perspective

In L.H. Sigourney’s poem “Fallen Forests,” I found many elements that aligned with the ideals of the ecofeminist perspectives we read in the Judith Plant essays for this week. In her essays, Plant states: “Life struggles in nature… become feminist issues within the ecofeminist perspective. Once we understand the historical connections between women and nature and their subsequent oppression, we cannot help but take a stand on the war against nature” (Plant, 80). I found that quote to encompass a lot of what Sigourney was trying to argue within “Fallen Forests.”

For example, line one of Sigourney’s poem states: “Man’s warfare on the trees is terrible” (Sigourney, 117). This statement could not be more blatant or upfront; she goes on to describe how the tree-cutting practices of the time are truly ruining nature, and if Americans are not more careful, the damage will be irreparable. Although when she says “man,” this could be taken to mean both males and females, throughout the poem there are images conjured of lumber jacks and laborers working hard to wreck the natural environment. These images, of course, correspond to the traditional ideals of men “out in the fields” with women staying in the home. This idea directly intertwines itself with Plant’s statement above. In this way, Sigourney’s poem not only calls out the American practice of tree-cutting (and its subsequent harms to the environment) but makes a statement against the male dominated world she, as a woman, lives in.

Sigourney does not shy away from making these remarks bold and direct; she even relies on some emotional appeals to impress upon her readers how dire this situation is. On page 118, Sigourney states: “neither he, nor… his children’s children, shall behold what he hath swept away” (Sigourney, 118). This, coupled with the last line of the poem that describes the irrevocability of man’s actions, leaves a clear statement in the reader’s mind. If nothing changes, nature will be damaged for all time. The true cleverness of Sigourney’s statement, though, lies in the fact that she is able to effortlessly tie in a complementary argument- advocating for women’s rights, as well as nature’s.

 

Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader.Ch./Art: REvaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground:
Evofeminism and Bioregionalism p. 21-23, 79-82. pub. New Society Publishers 1990

Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 1845

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kwalley on October 6, 2011 at 11:33 am

    When reading L. H. Sigourney’s “Fallen Forests” I did not take the very first line, condoning “man’s warfare on the trees” (117) to mean anything but mankind, it did not immediately dawn on me that she could simply be referring to man. Upon further reading the poem I saw that this was, as you said, an attack not only on the destruction of nature but also on the domination of males in society at that time. The link that you made between Plant’s statement and Sigourney’s argument provides a flawless example of an argument that is both ecocritical as well as socially aware. While Sigourney does make some rather outright feminist claims I enjoyed that her poem did not stray to far to a feminist perspective but rather maintained a healthy balance between feminism and ecocriticism.

    Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 145

  2. Posted by lpeake on October 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I initially also read “man” to mean “mankind” but reading further into the poem it’s clear that is not what Sigourney meant. She goes on to describe nature as having feminine attributes, such as “Nature’s bosom, that sweet, gentle nurse” or “[where] Nature in her beauty bends to God” (Sigourney 118). I see a clear metaphor here for men being destructive not only to nature but also to women.

    Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 145

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