How does Hester Prynne having a career make her a feminist?

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To view Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter as a feminist is certainly a modern interpretation. When Nathanial Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in 1850, the word "feminism" was not part of the common vernacular. Hawthorne himself holds a reputation as a misogynist; a famous quote from him refers to female authors as a "damned mob of scribbling women." However, it is clear that Hester Prynne is very much unlike other literary women of her time.

One thing to keep in mind when considering Hester's occupation is that while it is true that she is a single mother who is supporting a child born out of wedlock, her profession is one that is considered socially acceptable: she is a seamstress. Women who worked in the nineteenth century, either through necessity or choice, typically found employment doing what was thought to be "women's work," such as seamstressing or teaching.

However, it is also important to remember that Hester Prynne is a Puritan. Although some women during this time did work, it went against Puritan doctrine for them to do so. Hester's religion is what makes her successful occupation all the more representative of a feminist act—she is a Puritan single mother who earns her own money and goes on to gain respect from the community through what is considered an entirely feminine occupation.

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