This essay explores the recurring portrait of the bookkeeping woman in the fiction of writers such as Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Frances E. W. Harper, Sinclair Lewis, and Elmer Rice. It explores how the discourse of mathematics offers women a set of skills for navigating emergent economic and professional opportunities and provides a culturally authoritative means of self-advocacy. Focusing particularly on Gilman's What Diantha Did and Ferber's Fanny Herself, the author shows how the quantitative practices of their heroines function both to construct new models of female subjectivity based on rationality and fiscal discipline and to preserve existing racial, ethnic, and class taxonomies. Rather than simply exploring the effects of an increasingly technoscientific culture on literary formations, the author shows how these writers capitalize on the cultural authority of mathematics to enable certain ideological and subjective positions.
Anne Brubaker; The Subject of Accounting: Bookkeeping Women in American Literature, 1885 – 1925. Genre 1 June 2012; 45 (2): 239–268. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1574303
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