Rebecca Harding is considered as one of the most influential authors who wrote extensively on the social issues affecting the society.  Throughout her writing career, her work was published in different publications and she also wrote different shorts stories which are considered some of the greatest works of literature.


Rebecca Hardings was “born on June 24th 1831 in Washington Pennsylvania, US (Encyclopedia Britannica). ” She was the oldest of five children, in a middle class family” (Kort, Carol). Rebecca Harding did not grow up in a hard atmosphere but she grew up in a relatively standard life like the rest of the middle class Americans.  She grew Rebecca Harding Davis did not grow up a hard life, but a standard life of the average American working middle class.  Rebecca Harding Davis grew up in the 1800’s in Washington, Pennsylvania (Encyclopedia Britannica).  “She studied at home with her mother until age 14” (Oakes).  At that time Davis enrolled into an all girls school, called ‘Washington Female Seminary’ (Oakes).  Rebecca Harding Davis set her mind to create something of herself and engrave stories into people’s minds about her experiences of growing up where she did.  “Graduating in 1848 class valedictorian” (Oakes). Rebecca Harding Davis had achieved her goal.

Social influences

Her writing career opened her to new world of friends.  She joined hands with her friends in the feminist movement where she influenced them through her writings.  Her book, Life in the Iron Mills which was published in 1861 influenced many women to join the feminist movement.  She influenced other women in different ways but in her writing “she showed intellectual promise in girlhood” (Shograss Mary).

She also influenced Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, a fellow writer, to reexamine the life of female workers in the mills.

Rebecca Harding married L. Clarke Davis in 1863 and they started their family. “After Harding married Lemuel Clarke Davis, a Philadelphia Journalist, her focus’ shifted to rsising  their three children, taking care of her sick father and managing a home” (Kort, Carol). Her family had a lot of influence on her career. “Inspired by her mothers’ love of language and her fathers story-telling, she developed her own love of books and writings” (Oaks).

The environment under which she grew up in also had a lot of influence on her life. “She grew up in the Steel town of wheeling, West Virginia” (Kort, Carol). In this environment she came to touch with the reality that was happening to women and immigrants workers especial during the era of reconstructions.

Short story analysis

The first influential work of the Rebecca Davis was her short story “Life in the Iron Mills” which was published in Atlantic Monthly in 1861.  In the story, she invites the leader to share with her the plight of suffering workers. “Come right down with me – here in the thicket fog and mud and effluvia”.

This quote from the story clearly illustrates what she felt about the nature of life for the factor workers. “In April 1861, Davis made her market on feminists history by publishing in the “Atlantic Monthly” Americas prolecterian navellia, “Life in the Iron Mills” (shordgrass Maary).

The main these of this story was exploration of industrial workers by the capitalist society. “Her labor themes and style influenced the writer “Elizabeth Stuart Phelps” to examine the life of female mill workers” (Shodgrass, Mary).

Her work was naturally geared towards the living and working conditions of workers in the mills. “The journalist and realistic fiction writer Rebecca Harding Davis  denounced industrial white slavery and championed the cause of female laborers whose lives lacked meaningful work relaxation and cultural and creative outlets” (Shodgrass, Mary). Life in the mills was her first work that exposed the degenerative effects of capitalism.

In her work, she employed different styles like figurate languages, symbolisms, sound device, and word choices. In her figurative languages she uses characters like uneducated characters like Worlfe in Life in the iron mills.

Her critics argue that in this work, she overlooked the economic progress of capitalism. “Although most critics have argued this happy ending diverges the conversions of social realism” (Miller). However, I don’t agree with this since Rebecca Davis was a mirror of the society.

Time period in which the author grew

She lived in an era went the country was undergoing a lot of transformation.  “Davis issues-oriented works including assessment of reconstruction era racism towards black, and mixed race people” (Shodgrass). “In her spare time she took long walks through the neighborhood mill and iron foundries. Appalled by the poverty, pollution, and “soul starvation”, she felt compelled to write about the workers condition” (Kort).

In her work she influenced other authors in their work. “She continued to writer social commentary” (Shodgrass). “She encouraged historians to compile accomplishments of admirable female citizenship” (Shodgrass). She also participated in the political movement which called for emancipation of women rights. “Davis had a complex relationship with the feminist movement” (miller)

Analytical connection between time period, life, and short story

Her short stories Life in the Iron Mills is a clear reflection of what as going on in the society at the time when she wrote the story.  “Although Davis wrote sentimental melodramatic potboilers, in part as a way to a family income, she also tackled serious, pressing social and economic issues” (Kort).


Rebecca Harding is considered as one of the most influential authors who wrote extensively on the social issues affecting the society. He work was a clear reflection of what was happening in the society.

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