"I am very impressed by Frances Smith Foster's "Written by Herself", a work of thorough scholarship, judicious criticism, and original insights...This book will confirm her leadership among those working in this ever-expanding field."- N William L. Andrews. "Written by Herself' is the first comprehensive cultural history of literature by African American women prior to the twentieth century. Beginning with the earliest extant writings, Frances Smith Foster frames her textual analyses within the writers' social and literary contexts. These works stem from literary traditions and cultural interventions received, invented, or modified by writers who defied the accepted literary prerogatives of their race, gender, and class. Their literature was argument, designed to correct or to instruct an audience often ignorant about or even hostile to Black women. Adapting existing genres and literary techniques, these authors developed a form of literary signification and saw themselves as part of a continuing literary tradition. Foster begins with the oral histories of Alice, a slave born in Philadelphia in 1686. She continues with political activists Maria W. Stewart and Anna Julia Cooper, precursors of the African American women's literary tradition that included Lucy Terry Price, Phyllis Wheatley, Jarena Lee, Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert.