Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Amy Hudock

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


“Renew my will from day to day.

Blend it with thine, and take away

all that new makes it hard to say

Thy will be done.”

December 17, 1863

Susanna Gordon Waddell transcribed the above passage in her diary to reflect her pervading belief and conviction: a resignation to God’s will. She does not indicate the author of the verse, and it so aptly describes the beliefs expressed in her diary she may have written it herself. Interestingly, this particular passage contains an inherent contradiction. The prayer asks God to renew my will while simultaneously asking that it be taken away by blending it with God’s will, thus making it into a religious, and concomitantly, a societal resignation.

This contradiction presents one of the most perplexing, complicated, and significant issues in the study of women's lives throughout history. The basis of this issue is best embodied in these questions: To what extent have women been allowed, and in turn allowed themselves, to assert their own wills and desires given the roles, expectations, and limitations placed upon women by patriarchal society and religion, and the consequences of not conforming to these? How free have women felt to be themselves—to live as the women they are and want to be? What kinds of expectations influence the lives of women and figure significantly into the formation of women's identities and self-definitions? This analysis explores the diary of Susanna Gordon Waddell and selected letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman to discover possible answers to such questions as they apply to the lives of these two women.


Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta – 1843-1864 – Correspondence.

Women – United States – History.

Women – Social conditions.