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New Commited Voices

            It is at this point in Barrett Browning's life and career more than any other that she becomes a New Committed Voice. Having recently escaped the confines of her father's home, in which she states the children were often driven to the "vices of slaves", Barrett Browning is asserting the correlation between slavery and the unprivileged position of women. As Angela Leighton observes: The Runaway Slave is written by a runaway daughter. Exclusively from 1844 onwards Barrett Browning dedicated her poetry to exposing the political and social evils of the 19th Century. Above all as Margaret Forster states Barrett Browning wanted to "tell the truth" and to tell it in a particular way to women. [OHP 1].
             Conversely she wrote, if a woman writer does not accept this responsibility then she had: [OHP 2] .
             The analogy between the position of women and slaves was invoked widely in Victorian culture, particularly with reference to the middle-classes. Women were in the same category as criminals, lunatics and slaves. In particular married women were their husbands chattels. They had no rights to their own bodies and were not permitted to refuse conjugal duties. Victorian marriage was a patriarchal authoritarian institution in much the same way as colonial slavery was. Therefore if women refused to make the slave's case their own they would be reaffirming the oppression they had suffered from the earliest times. .
             Like many other women Elizabeth Barrett Browning joined the fight against slavery, firstly in the British abolitionist movement, and then, through connections with feminist abolitionists in the United States. In January 1847, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, at the request of anti-slavery friends in America wrote the overtly political poem The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point. The delay in publication of The Runaway Slave can be largely attributed to what Barrett Browning herself suggested in her letter to Hugh Boyd, that the poem was "too ferocious" for the Americans to publish.

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