Nature and the home in Elizabeth Farnham California In-doors and out, L. Sigourney My Native Land

I am interested in this topic because I really had never thought of the connection between women, bioregionalism, the home, and nature till I read the articles by Judith Plant. It  was just something I had never been exposed to, and now I look back and can see it in many other writings. It is interesting to note the way that the domestic sphere has played such a big role in women’s perception and connection to nature. Both Farnham and Sigourney are women that have traveled extensively, and yet they continue to give huge importance to their home, and the importance of the land/nature surrounding it. In Plant’s article Bioregionalism means “learning to become native to a place, fitting ourselves to a particular place, not fitting a place to our pre-determined tastes” (81). Farnham in particular adapts herself to living in California after traveling east, however, she also adapts her surroundings to fit what she had a been accustomed to. Sigourney  criticizes the changes and damages being wrought upon the North East, but like Farnham in the end she marks one’s home as the most important sphere, regardless of the land.

1. How do both of these women write about nature in relation to the home?

2. Is there a struggle between the domestic sphere and their appreciation of nature?

3. What is the role of women? How do they challenge patriarchal society with their perception of nature, if at all?

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rebsheppard on October 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I think you chose a good topic to research and examine, however I think you should try to make a connection with your topic and its implications in the modern world/the modern concept or iteration of bioregionalism. I feel like women are dealing with the issues mentioned in your post (i.e. the home, developing a connection to nature) more than ever nowadays, and would like to see some research on this subtopic.

    • I was thinking this very thing. This is a struggle modern women are going through trying to juggle a career and the home. Maybe try to find a modern text about women balancing life and compare it with Judith Plant. If you can find something to work i would think about
      4. Do modern womens issues relate to nature in the way Plant describes it? or are we so removed from nature, its not an issue women today have to focus on?

    • Yes. Good point, especially since bioregionalism is a modern concept.

  2. Posted by kbudd on October 27, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    This paper topic is especially relevant in today’s society. We saw in “California Indoors and out” the stereotypical woman’s role change. I think you could expand on this and also discuss how this role is still changing today with a lot of men taking active roles in household chores.

  3. Posted by christys21 on October 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Good choice with Bioregionalism and Farnham’s reading. Since women were typically kept away from nature (men would do everythng having to do with nature), maybe you can touch on the way women have come closer to nature by being able to perfom more mascualine task.
    Whereas women would not typically be the one to determine whether they should move to another location, we see how Farnham does so and the way in which having to make her own decisions, in turn, affects her connection with nature.

  4. Posted by thelorist on October 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    This is a good topic to work with, and the quote you pulled from Plant’s article carries a good concept to expand upon. In your second question, you ask if there is perhaps a struggle between the domestic sphere and an appreciation of nature, but perhaps you could dig into the idea of “adaptation” to discover more specific stipulations. Are the home and nature opposed, or does Plant suggest that we shouldn’t remodel nature in the sense that we remodel our homes, or in other words:

    Q: “Does the quote in Plant’s article suggest that it is alright to carry our domestic tastes with us, on the condition that we keep our own tastes indoors and be content with the outdoors (refrain from changing the land to our tastes)? Or, does this mean that there is an inherent and unavoidable conflict between home and nature?”

  5. Good topic, I think you will have a lot of work with once your expand upon your topic.

    I really enjoyed this questions:
    Is there a struggle between the domestic sphere and their appreciation of nature?

    and I would maybe look at adding this question to be answered:
    Is it truly possible for women to have both? I think this i more than just a simple struggle because in Farnham she seems to lose her relationship as a mother because of the importance of nature.

    • Really? Interesting! I wish we had talked about that on Tuesday, as I did not see that when I read Farnham (that she loses her relationship as a mother).

  6. Posted by brightgirl04 on October 28, 2011 at 12:25 am

    I also find bioregionalism and women an interesting topic. I think question three describing the role of women will give you a lot to talk about. You could also discuss whether Sigourney and Farnham have similar/different appreciation for the land given that they are on opposite sides of the country in different types of environments?

  7. Posted by al002 on October 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    A very interesting topic like all the above posts have stated but I really liked your question “3. What is the role of women? How do they challenge patriarchal society with their perception of nature, if at all?” I think challenging a patriarchal society will be a key element in your paper. A question I would suggest would be:

    By marking the home as the most important sphere regardless of the land hurt or help the argument that women are constrained to the domestic sphere?

  8. The women we’ve studied in our texts have some interesting bioregional aspects and ecofeminism. It might be interesting to expand this topic outward to a modern text and correlate them, and how it might impact us as modern readers/viewers.

    Question: Is bioregionalism still relevant to today’s society, and if so, how? And which modern texts exemplify this or not exemplify this?

  9. Posted by kwalley on October 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    This topic is very interesting and also offers a lot of diverse literature to form your argument so I think it will be very successful. I particularly like question 2 and would even expand further upon it.

    5. Is it possible for a woman to flourish both domestically and in her appreciation and respect of nature? Does one take away from the other or is there a balance to be achieved?

  10. Posted by lmc908 on October 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Question two is interesting. I do feel that there is a struggle and that Farnham brings it up. The idea that nature/rough life destroys a woman’s gentleness/elegance, but that it is still necessary for a woman to be independent and self-providing.

    12. How does Farnham’s opinion about nature and the character of a woman affect Ecofeminism and the progress of women?

  11. I think you chose a good paper topic. You chose good questions to explore and I think it will come out very interesting. I liked your second question the most because it is very interesting examining gender in relation to the topic
    13) How does the identity of the author as a women affect the notion of bioregionalism. Does she have a more emphasis on the issue because as a woman she has special attachment to the home.

  12. Posted by etrotta on October 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I like your topic because I didn’t really think about women’s role in settling the wilderness before we read Farnham’s work. Your 2nd question stands out the most to me. The struggle between trying to survive in the wilderness vs admiring the beauty of the environment you live in is an interesting relationship. I would add a question like “Is it possible to become part of the nature surrounding your living place or do humans always clash against their natural environments for survival?

  13. Posted by michaelmichaelsmith on October 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    I found Q3 very interesting. The Farnham text really illustrates how expansion allowed women to take on activities that weren’t just in the domestic sphere. These more rugged responsibilities exposed women of that time to new experiences which empowered them physically and mentally.

    Q15 – What specific events in the texts caused the female protagonist to consider her limitations and her abilities? What modern practices would lend the same “potential-expanding,” to women?

  14. Talking about Farnham it makes me think about the book “book of the city of ladies” (i think thats the title). Its a very old text by a famous female author. What is imporant about the text is the construction of a city, a place for women. In male dominated society it is a struggle to construct a space for the woman. The importance of home can connect with the need to establish a space within male society. How does the site of the home-building reflect the author’s intentions in writing the text? For example, why would Farnham choose the west, the frontier, what does that represent as the site of this new construction project?

  15. This is a great topic! I think that you need to do more research on bioregionalism for this one. Do bioregionalists–and ecofeminist bioregionalists more specifically–never alter the land? You need to understand the land use ethics of ecofeminist biogregionalists today to compare Farnham and Sigourney’s land use.

    Here’s my additional question:

    How are these women’s experiences with nature influenced by their various social roles (not just gender roles, but class and race as well)?

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