Montana Elder and Meghan Wright

Word Count Analysis and Ngrams

For our digital humanities project, we chose to examine the usage of words in Judith Sargent Murray’s “On the Equality of the Sexes”. In this essay, Murray works to refine the unequal gender roles that society had created in favor of men. She does not paint women as superior, but rather as equals to men, and strives for females to be treated as such.  In regards to the research specifics, we determined what words she used the most throughout the piece, analyzing their impact and why she may have chosen them.We then created NGrams that graphed any publications within certain time periods that used the phrase that was entered into the search bar.

The most commonly used word by Murray in this essay is “she”. This is not surprising, being as though Murray is writing to make an impact on the way that women are treated in society. However, I think that it is interesting to note that Murray doesn’t say “I” ,or “me”, but rather refers to “she”. Murray doesn’t target just women, just young girls, or even herself, but rather every single female in society by using the encompassing “she”.  Total, the word was used 27 times throughout the essay.

The second most used word is “mind”. Murray uses this word to speak on not only the yearn she has for males to realize women’s worth,  but to emphasize the fact that women’s minds are beyond capable- contrary to society’s opinion. Females are capable of showing great judgment skills, but are halted in their ability to grow mentally due to men denying them of an education. The mind is a topic that Murray touches on a lot throughout the piece. The word is used 23 times.

The third word used the most by Murray is “his”, appearing 20 times in this specific piece. Also appearing 20 times is the word “he”. These words are extremely significant to the essay. “His” is a word asserting dominance and possession, much like a man’s world- which is what society truly was. Murray criticises the idea that the world belongs to man, and man only. In similar fashion, the word “he” being used at such a high rate is also Murray’s way of calling for reformation in regards to viewpoints and roles of authority. She portrays images the “he” throughout, aiding in showing how women are so unfairly stifled in their abilities as compared to the “he”.

Used a total of 19 times. “sex” was the next most used word in Murray’s essay. “Sex” is a word that holds a significant amount of meaning behind it. It refers to the biological differences between a male, female, or otherwise. If Murray were to use the word “gender” in place of “sex”, then that holds a meaning that doesn’t have as strong of an impact to tie to her point. For instance, “gender” could refer to a role in society or how a person chooses acts in relation to their role. Clearly, if she is fighting for gender equality, she wants those societal roles to change. Therefore, “sex” distinguishes between the physicalities that differ between man and woman, rather than their roles. Also, the word gives the reader the feeling that men and women are only separated by genetic material, rather than superiority complexes.

Used a total of 18 times is the word “her”. It is interesting to note that “her” was used less than “his”. Evidently, “her”was not as strong of a pronoun as “his” in this time period, being the oppressed sex. However, in regards to the usage of the word- Murray does use it quite a bit in comparison to the previously listed words. Used just 1 time less than “sex”. Within the essay, Murray attempts to portray the role of “her”, meaning the entire female population, and show that it is one that should be appreciated in the realm of their society.

“One” was used 14 times in Murray’s essay. This is one of the most impactful words listed thus far. The entire piece of text is a called to men and women to come together as one in the nation, rather than being two separate and unequal entities. Her use of this word emphasizes the main idea that the genders shouldn’t pit themselves against each other, but rather work together to excel to a nation of equal opportunity.

The 8th most used word is “strength”. Again, this is a word that truly holds an emotional meaning in regards to this piece of literature. Murray shows not only the strength that women held in a time of suppression and unfair treatment, but also the physical and mental strength that women had- contrary to the beliefs of men. It was believed all too often that females were incapable of physical activity- and Murray proves this idea to be wrong showing images of pregnant women working in fields, along with the inhumane hours worked by sempstresses.

The 9th most used word in Murray’s essay was “soul”. By using this word, Murray is relaying to readers the idea that both men and female are human beings, both holding souls or spiritual embodiments within them. To treat one “soul” as exceptional against the other, when both are made and designed equally, is nonsensical.

Finishing off the list, used 10 times, is the word “every”. Knowing the background of this piece of text and it’s overall call-to-action, obviously “every” is a word that truly embodies what Murray is trying to say. “Every” human, whether they are male or female, should be treated as equals and with fairness. “Every” does not include one gender, and leave out the other- but encompasses all.

In relation to the NGrams, these findings held significant information. This essay was published in 1779, however there were no mentions of the title until 1780. Between 1810 and 1915, there are relatively  increases and decreases in the mention of “Equality of the Sexes”. However, what is interesting to note is that in 1919 women were given the right to vote, which obviously made huge strides in the feminist movement. That is demonstrated on the graph as well. Though Murray’s work did receive a large spike in mentions during the first few years after its publication, we see that increasingly, starting at about 1950, the work has become more and more popular in terms of its mention in publications. That can be credited to the rise of women seeking their right to equality- becoming an extremely popular topic in today’s society.


NGram Findings, Digital Humanities Work Ethic

For this project we believed that it would be interesting to make use of Google Books’ Ngram application. Our initial plan was to calculate which words Judith Sargent Murray used, and then trace the discussion and effects of her work through print over time. However, when we tried to search for print sources that commented on, or reviewed her work, we came up empty handed. Graphing her work, the Equality of the Sexes, was unusually hard. Ngrams frequently suggested that there were no works or discussion based upon her work well until after she died.

For our first Ngram, we searched her full name as well as the title of her work. Her work was published in 1779, and when we calculated that in the chart, it revealed an interesting table. The prase ‘Equality of the Sexes’ wasn’t used until 1780, right after the time that her work was released. When this is juxtaposed with her full name, we find that they overlap between 1789 and 1792. Just to be safe, we set the parameters of our chart five years before her work was released. The test run revealed that this was the first time the phrase or title became common, used, or published. The significance here lies within the fact that google provided us with dates as to when her work was most well received, studied, and talked about.

Many times throughout our class we talked about delving into the literature itself rather than the history that is associated with it. The first part of our project, categorizing and counting Murray’s most used words, will allow us more information to possibly plug into the Ngrams viewer.

The digital humanities aspect of this project presents itself in its most clear form here. This chart does not only provide us with information into the past, but into the present as well. When we look at the graph overall, it suggests that the usage of Judith Sargent Murray’s work, along with ‘Equality of the Sexes’ reaches different levels of popularity at different times throughout history.  Between 1810 and 1915 there are steady rises and falls between each category, however, they reunite and overlap again in 1919. In 1919 congress ratified the amendment that gave women the right to vote. This is fascinating as in times that are related to pivotal moments in the women’s rights movements, the chart tends to spike for each category. This is so fascinating because it also helps others to understand the power the Judith Sargent Murray and her work had, even if not directly at the time.

The chart shows us that her work was briefly popular when it was first published, but primarily affects the chart many years later. This probably is because of the growing awareness between the 1770’s and 1910’s. As you might notice, the chart also has a fairly positive correlation as time goes on. We are a perfect example of people who have not only studied Judith Sargent Murray, but tracked her effect throughout time.

The google Ngrams site also suggests that the positive correlation is not to shift anytime soon. The more time that goes on, the more people become interested in history. Our project, a combination of the study of literature and effect, is a perfect example of the way that digital humanities impact the way that we learn as well as our future.

We also chose to throw some extra phrases and words into the Ngrams viewer in hopes that it might create a fuller image of our project, or comment on any of the common associations. When we entered words like ‘voting’ and ‘women’s right’ there is a clear positive correlation between all four of the phrases or words. While the usage of the word ‘voting’ is way more frequent than the others, it remains steady with the links and associations of how the other lines rise and fall. Google Ngrams is not currently up to modern date when it comes to graphing its associations and the way that it is used today, however it does suggest that there is a steady positive and equal correlation.

Although we could not directly find sources to speak on the effect of Judith Sargent Murray’s writing, we did find that her work has been referenced by unnamed sources through the Ngrams program. While she may not have been adequately well liked or read in her time , she was successful in changing the gender roles and conformity of traditional women. The digital humanities aspect has only allowed us to fully examine literature in a new and powerful way. It allows us access to the past and access to a collection/ search engine much larger than anything we’ve had access to before.

To sum up our Digital Humanities project, we chose to research the works and effects of Judith Sargent Murray’s  “Equality of the Sexes”. Our research question and hypothesis posed the question of how her work was significant over time, and charting her popularity at both the time of her publication as well as after. We used both google Ngrams and a spreadsheet to track her associated phrases as well as her most used words. We believed that by tracking both of these things, we would be able to create a clear picture of the effect and popularity of her work. We chose these graphs because we believed that they would give us the most clear and compelling visual representations available.

Our steps, in order, were to read through her work in depth, count her most used words, and put them in the system. Then, we searched online for different publications addressing her work, when we came up empty handed we decided to trace her popularity and influence. We then put all of her work into google Ngrams and played around with creating several different charts. When these challenges arose, we simply backtracked and examined a more broad scope of her influence. This affected our final outcome for the best I think, should we have found publications in direct response to her work we would never have stumbled upon Ngrams! If we had more time to complete this project I would search hand and foot for print sources just out of sheer curiosity. I could imagine that a person with more time on there hands and had access to more compiled research data could help create more full data.