Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Bridget Hayden

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Rebecca Tuuri

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Andrew Haley

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Ed Jackson

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


This study examines the activity and impact of white women’s literary clubs in Hattiesburg, Mississippi between 1884 and the end of World War II in 1945. This project examines to what extent women adhered to or broke away from societal norms of the time by involving themselves in intellectually stimulating groups with other women, especially in response to rapidly changing standards of femininity and womanhood during the Progressive era. Women’s literary clubs reveal patterns of women moving out of the home and into a public role, in addition to signifying the new ways in which women fit themselves into a society during a period of rapidly changing ideas about femininity and womanhood.

Club activity records show how organized Hattiesburg women fit into larger models of progressive womanhood while maintaining the decorum expected of them. These activities can also demonstrate if these clubs allowed southern women to participate in a larger feminist movement that may not have been widely accepted in the Deep South. The cultural and structural contributions of women’s organizations in Hattiesburg are largely unrecognized in the literature, but the impact they had on the city has been long lasting. Women’s literary clubs in Hattiesburg organized women and allowed them to have a deeply rooted, progressive influence on a growing city in a traditionally conservative state. This thesis argues that literary clubs empowered Hattiesburg women to better themselves and their communities, while putting pressure upon prescribed gender roles without breaking apart societal rules.