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Annual Campbell House Museum Lecture

Sunday, March 18, 2018 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm


Non-Parallel Lines: Virginia Campbell, Bridget, & Sally

In his essay, “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Wal­do Emer­son, whose lifes­pan is almost iden­ti­cal to fur trad­er Robert Campbell’s, echoed Socrates:  “The unex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing.”  Cer­tain­ly, the life of the suc­cess­ful St. Louis busi­ness­man has been record­ed and scru­ti­nized in books and arti­cles.  About Vir­ginia Kyle Camp­bell there is one inter­pre­tive arti­cle, pub­lished local­ly.  View­ing this imbal­ance of exam­i­na­tion through a gen­dered lens, we might deduce that –although she was the wife of a very promi­nent citizen—Virginia‘s life was some­how not worth exam­in­ing.  In her life as a nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry woman, bound by what we now call “the cult of domes­tic­i­ty,” Vir­ginia gave birth to thir­teen chil­dren, only three of whom sur­vived, and numer­ous mis­car­riages and still births.  How­ev­er, if we know lit­tle about Vir­ginia, we know even less about oth­er women who lives were inti­mate­ly inter­twined with hers—the Irish domes­tic ser­vant, col­lo­qui­al­ly known as “Brid­get,” and the enslaved females—often called “Sal­ly”– who were part of the prop­er­ty that became Robert’s when they wed in 1841. Using the let­ters of Vir­ginia Camp­bell, this essay explores the details of her life as an indi­vid­ual upper-class female who inhab­it­ed the bina­ry gen­dered world of home and mar­ket­place.  It will also inves­ti­gate the expe­ri­ences of the Irish domes­tic female ser­vant in the Camp­bell home and in St. Louis.  Lit­tle is known about the enslaved peo­ple owned by the Camp­bell fam­i­ly, but there is some detail about the lives of enslaved women in St. Louis, and that is the third nar­ra­tive that will be considered.

Pre­sent­ed by Dr. Kath­leen Nigro

Direc­tor: Gen­der Stud­ies Program,

Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri – St. Louis 

The lec­ture is held in the Cen­tral Branch Audi­to­ri­um. Lec­ture is FREE and open to the pub­lic. Reser­va­tions are no required. Park­ing is free on Sundays.



Sunday, March 18, 2018
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Event Category:


St. Louis Public Library (Central Library)
1301 Olive Street
St. Louis, MO 63103 United States
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(314) 241-2288