The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 392
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
within the nineteenth-century family and society emotionally segre-
gated men and women. In this sexually segregated world, close female
ties "became a plausible and socially accepted form of interaction .. ."
Women could share their sorrows, anxieties, and joys, confident that
other women had experienced similar emotions. Inner security and a
sense of self-esteem developed from these female friendships.35 The
Sanctificationists used their common domestic experiences to create a
feminist society, a place where women defined their own goals and
controlled their own destiny. This vision developed gradually as the
women realized they had the ability and power to create a more satis-
fying environment than the one they inhabited with males. The result
of their effort was the most self-conscious and successful feminist com-
mune in nineteenth-century America, a complex economic and social
organization that gave Belton women the opportunity to live inde-
pendent and full lives ultimately transcending the limitations of
contemporary womanhood. The Woman's Commonwealth, which de-
veloped out of ordinary, shared domestic concerns, was more successful
in creating a satisfying environment for women than those communes
that intentionally set themselves apart from mainstream Victorian
Promoters of nineteenth-century social experiments mistakenly be-
lieved that the modification or destruction of the traditional family
unit would automatically foster equality between the sexes. Although
many utopias did provide women with some alternatives to domes-
ticity, none of them truly rejected the concept of the woman's sphere.
Thus communes promoted many of the same Victorian values and
practices they ostensibly rejected. The experience of the Woman's
Commonwealth demonstrated that the creation of a more satisfying
communal life for nineteenth-century women depended upon a com-
bination of economic success and an implicitly feminist environment
and ideology, a way of life that challenged the notion of woman's
sphere by offering varied work and leadership opportunities and by
promoting economic and social independence and autonomy. The
realization of these conditions was the oustanding achievement of
Martha McWhirter and her Sanctified Sisters.
5SCott, Bonds of Womanhood, 160-2o6; Rosenberg, "Female World of Love and
Ritual," 1-8, 9 (quotation), 1o-17; John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Over-
land Trail (New Haven, 1979).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/460/: accessed October 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.