Chaste, Silent & Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640

Chaste, Silent & Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640

Chaste, Silent & Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640

Chaste, Silent & Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640

Excerpt

This paperback printing is not a new edition, but it does offer three major changes to the 1982 text--the addition of five titles to the bibliography (pages 233-234), a paragraph (below) to expand on the original Preface, and an opportunity to thank Professor Caroll Camden for his valuable analysis of the original text which was vital to its completion.

Since most early books for women were written by men, they are considered by many thoughtful scholars today to be prescriptive pictures of female life. I agree. I would also argue that the are description as well as prescriptions. The period under examination, 1475-1640, preceded widespread labor specialization. It also preceded much frivolous female education of later decades. Women were still responsible for a broad range of essential (largely household) activities which provided personal satisfaction. Their education (reading in English for a fair number and instruction in household skills and religion for most), including the male teachings, did not necessarily lead to the identity women, particularly the few educationally-advantaged women, would have chosen for themselves. But the literature describes a life which many women accepted and an environment in which all were expected by the male-dominated society to live. Together with the indirect messages (and these are crucial) that can be "read" into these books, I believe they reveal much reality, description as well as prescription for Tudor and early Stuart Women.

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