Julia A. J. Foote (1823-1900)

    Contributing Editor: William L. Andrews

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Julia Foote's intensely religious view of life often contrasts with the secularism of today's students. Students often wonder whether she was self-deceived in thinking herself authorized by the Holy Spirit to assert her will over those of the general mass of people in her church. It is important, therefore, to emphasize the relationship of Foote's religious world view to her feminism. She supports her feminism by citing biblical precedent.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    Major themes include Foote's search for her authentic self and the black woman's search for power and voice in male-dominated religious institutions.

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    How does Foote turn a straightforward narrative of her life into an argument for Christianity, feminism, and holiness?

    Original Audience

    I stress to the students that Foote is addressing someone in particular-- ask them how they can identify who this is.

    Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections

    Interesting comparisons can be made with slave narrators like Douglass, since Foote and Douglass are both concerned with affirming their sense of a spirit within that owes its allegiance only to transcendent ideals.


    Andrews, William L., ed. Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women's Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. Discusses and annotates Foote's entire autobiography.