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Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558–1837 (Paperback)

P&S History Social History Women of History 19th Century 18th Century 17th Century 16th Century

By Louise Duckling, Dr Sara Read, Felicity Roberts, Carolyn D Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781526751393
Published: 1st July 2019



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'Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558-1837' is an engaging and lively collection of original, thought-provoking essays. Its route from Lady Jane Grey’s nine-day reign to Queen Victoria’s accession provides ample opportunities to examine complex interactions between gender, rank, and power. Yet the book’s scope extends far beyond queens: its female cast includes servants, aristocrats, literary women, opera singers, actresses, fallen women, athletes and mine workers.

The collection explores themes relating to female power and physical strength; infertility, motherhood, sexuality and exploitation; creativity and celebrity; marriage and female friendship. It draws upon a wide range of primary materials to explore diverse representations of women: illuminating accounts of real women’s lives appear alongside fictional portrayals and ideological constructions of femininity. In exploring women’s negotiations with patriarchal control, this book demonstrates how the lived experience of women did not always correspond to prescribed social and gendered norms, revealing the rich complexity of their lives.

This volume has been published to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837. The group was formed to promote research into any aspect of women’s lives as experienced or depicted within this period. The depth, range and creativity of the essays in this book reflect the myriad interests of its members.

It’s because of these critical sources and the habit of writing that so many of us are able to engage with history and contribute to it ourselves – whether that’s through the study of it or through charting our own course.

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She Noted

The book certainly displays the wide-ranging scholarship pursued and supported by the group over the past thirty years, and this is to be applauded... this book achieves its stated goal to inspire its readers to “continue exploring the lives of women in history”, making it a fitting celebration of the Women’s Studies Group 1558–1837 and its work.

Professor Jessica L. Malay, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal

This is an amazing collection of essays from different authors belonging to the Womens Studies Group 1558-1837. As such the essays are on a range of subjects from aphrodisiacs and fertility to friendships and rivalry. They cover women from all walks of life - rich and poor - to illuminate real lives that were complex and diverse.
The chapters are all self-contained making it a great book to dip in and out of; each one giving food for thought and examining the contradictions, challenges and difficulties women faced.
Drawing on primary sources, there is a wealth of information here and it is an invaluable asset to historians and writers researching this period.

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GoodReads, Sarah Watkins

It is difficult to cover every chapter here, but I can truly say I enjoyed each one of them. Each new essay raised different stories and experiences, but all managed to work in harmony with each other.

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History Lizzie

"I would recommend this book, not just for those with an interest in women’s lives, but also for anyone who
would like to know more about how society treats ‘the fair sex’."

Review by

Family and Community Historical Research Society

This is not a conventional history of the period or a reference work but a collection of carefully curated studies, which makes it perfect for dipping in to rather than reading straight through. The editorial team is to be congratulated for putting together a good-looking volume on such a wide variety of thought-provoking subjects.

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Naomi Clifford

he Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 was formed thirty years ago, and this collection of thirteen essays celebrates the anniversary.

Historical Novels Review

Featured in

Lincolnshire Family History Society

Featured in

Lincolnshire Family History Society

Published to mark the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837, this is a fascinating collection of essays. Chapters range from royal book dedications, to female runners, women’s rights and female obituaries. This is the sort of book that you can dip in and out of as the mood takes you.

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Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide, Tamise Hills

If you are interested in learning about the diverse histories of women and how society as impacted them you would really enjoy this work.

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The Nerdy Girl Express

As featured in

The Bookseller 26/4/19

These essays celebrate thirty years of the Women’s Studies Group, showing the historical variety of women’s lives despite the masks of femininity, finds Elaine Graham-Leigh

Click here for the review.

Counterfire, April 2019

This book is a fascinating and readable reminder of the great women who have lived through previous centuries... A superb book.

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Books Monthly

Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a complete listing of contributors and their credentials, illustrations, a six page bibliography of Further Readings, and a ten page Index, "Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558 - 1837" is an impressively organized and presented body of detailed scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Women's History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Midwest Book Review

I think on a whole this book is very educational, I spent a lot longer on it than other history books and this is purely because I think its so well written, the essays are so full of information that I treated it more like a study session when I sat down to read rather than the normal breezing through a regular history book. I think you need to go into this book fully prepared to take on the information and put the time in to really dig into it, but I definitely wouldn’t be intimated by it and I think anyone with a strong interest in women’s history will really love and appreciate this book and the work the authors put in to making it.

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Samantha Paris

I found it important, well researched, detailed and extremely useful in understanding a woman’s place in the periods spanning the late 1500’s to the early Victorian era... I’d definitely recommend it for students and academics and the more seasoned casual readers.

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The Medieval Library

This books covers topics related to an important woman, reform movements, works of media, and professions.

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GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

Click here to listen to interview with Carolyn Williams

NOTE: set cursor to 2:17:15

BBC Radio Berkshire with presenter Sarah Walker, 23rd January 2019

Click here to listen to interview with Louise Duckling

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BBC Radio Suffolk with presenter Lesley Dolphin, 21st January 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐ This is a fascinating collection of essays that covers all aspects of women’s history

This is a fascinating collection of essays that covers all aspects of women’s history and the women themselves from Lady Jane Grey to Eliza O’Neill and many, many more between, plus there are essays on women’s rights, lives, sports, intellect, novels and even sex. I was intrigued by it as soon as I saw it and it did not disappoint. If you are interested in women’s history and the more under-celebrated figures from women history then this will be the perfect book. It is a compelling, richly historic and fabulously written book which will entertain as well as educate.

I was particularly engaged with the chapter about the three ‘radical’ Mary’s; Mary Wollenstonecraft, Mary Hays and Mary Robinson now I have heard of all three, any woman who each in their own way fought for women’s rights and to educate not just women but men too. I thought this particular chapter was wonderfully written, with great insights into these fascinating women plus highly educational, I never knew that Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollenstonecraft, how amazing!

Plus, the chapter about women’s running is utterly fascinating, I never knew that between 1700 and 1749 there was a t least 68 ladies running races across the country, how fascinating is that? It was those essays that focused more on the ordinary woman such as the brave women who went down the colliery which really jumped out at me, that is one of the reasons I really connected with this book, was the fact that’s its not all about royals and aristocrats its got a lot of depth into the ordinary woman and what she faced.

For those that are more fond of novel’s and lighter historic non-fiction this may be a little heavy, but I would definitely recommend everyone to read it, and the beauty of this book is that you necessarily have to read it in order, you can very easily jump in an out and it will make a fantastic research book for anyone who writing, if you have a woman in your work in progress then I would definitely have a read of this, it will amaze you.

A great book, and one that definitely should be any woman’s bookshelf.

Frankie Reviews, Amazon.co.uk

Click here to listen to Sara Read interview

NOTE: set cursor to 38:04

BBC Radio Leicester with presenter Bridget Blair, 6th January 2019

I would definitely recommend everyone to read it, and the beauty of this book is that you necessarily have to read it in order, you can very easily jump in an out and it will make a fantastic research book for anyone who writing, if you have a woman in your work in progress then I would definitely have a read of this, it will amaze you.

A great book, and one that definitely should be any woman’s bookshelf.

Read the full review here

Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

About Louise Duckling

Louise Duckling is an independent scholar working on eighteenth-century women writers and their posthumous reputations. She has previously co-edited 'Woman to Woman: Female Negotiations in the Long Eighteenth Century', with Carolyn D. Williams and Angela Escott (University of Delaware Press, 2010).

Dr Sara Read

About Dr Sara Read

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She holds a PhD in early modern literature. Her particular interest is in representations of the female body in literature and she has published widely in this field. Her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and she has co-edited a collection of early modern women’s writings on the topic of health and spirituality called Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women’s Writing for Manchester University Press, 2014. In addition, Dr Read has published a number of social history articles for Discover Your Ancestors magazine.

About Felicity Roberts

Felicity Roberts is a member of the Women's Studies Group 1558-1837 organising committee. She has a particular interest in the connections between natural history, literature, gender and material culture and has published on Mary Delany’s botanical collages and manuscript novella.

About Carolyn D Williams

Carolyn D. Williams is an Honorary Fellow at the Early Modern Research Centre, University of Reading. Her publications include 'Pope, Homer and Manliness: Some Aspects of Eighteenth-Century Classical Learning' (Routledge, reprinted 2014) and 'Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen' (University of Delaware Press, 2009).

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