This work is a study of the portrayal of women in nineteenth century literature in New England. In the eventful postbellum years, the question of who deserved freedom and equality fueled the debate about women’s role in society. Suffrage seemed inevitable in the latter part of the century, and the Woman Question influenced writers and regular citizens alike. The fight was particularly noticeable in New England, which is considered a hub of revolutionary and quintessentially American sentiment and is therefore a good setting for this thesis. There are many avenues in which to explore women’s rights to influence and participation in civic society. Both suffragists and anti-suffragist used arguments of religion and differences in human nature to support their causes; the author of this thesis will explore the question through authors’ portrayals of American core ideals through their female characters. The American ideals are interpreted from the Declaration of Independence, where the unalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are proclaimed (Jefferson, 1776). For the purposes of this thesis, that line provides the two ideals of liberty and industriousness, which form the two main sections of this thesis. The primary texts for this study are Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) and Good Wives (1869), William Dean Howells’ A Woman’s Reason (1883), and Henry James’ The Bostonians (1886). In addition to these works, other local and contemporary literary and critical texts spanning from 1835 to 1899 will contribute to the analysis. Together with a historically founded understanding of women’s role in nineteenth century New England, these sources will help show how Alcott, Howells and James created involved and complex female characters deserving and capable of full citizenship on the same terms as the country’s men.