We’re nearing the tail end of Women’s History Month, and Women Writers Online, a database of transcriptions of early modern women’s writing, is still free to access for the rest of the month! WWO’s contents include short and long poetry, plays, novels, essays and religious content, midwifery books, and more. Writers at all levels of fame are represented, from Elizabeth I and Aphra Behn to anonymous and pseudonymous writers. Here are just a few of the texts:
Cavendish, Margaret (Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle: The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World, 1667. An early work of sci-fi!
Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death; for they were not onely driven to the very end or point of the Pole of that World, but even to another Pole of another World, which joined close to it…
By this Poetical Description, you may perceive, that my ambition is not onely to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole World; and that the Worlds I have made, both the Blazing- and the other Philosophical World, mentioned in the first part of this Description, are framed and composed of the most pure, that is, the Rational parts of Matter, which are the parts of my Mind…And in the formation of those Worlds, I take more delight and glory, then ever Alexander or Cesar did in conquering this terrestrial world.
Sowernam, Ester: Esther Hath Hang’d Haman, 1617. One of several responses to Joseph Swetnam’s misogynistic pamphlet “The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women”, this text methodically points out holes in Swetnam’s logic and refutes his points in like manner.
He runneth on, and saith, They were made of a Rib, and that their froward and crooked nature doth declare, for a Rib is a crooked thing, &c. Woman was made of a crooked rib, so she is crooked of conditions. Joseph Swetnam was made as from Adam of clay and dust, so he is of a durty and muddy disposition.
Barbauld, Anna Laetitia (Aikin): Poems, 1773. Poetry about nature, politics and current events, the poet’s friends, and other subjects.
From glittering scenes which strike the dazzled sight
With mimic grandeur and illusive light,
From idle hurry, and tumultous noise,
From hollow friendships, and from sickly joys,
Will Delia, at the muse’s call retire
To the pure pleasures rural scenes inspire?
Will she from crowds and busy cities fly,
Where wreaths of curling smoke involve the sky,
To taste the grateful shade of spreading trees,
And drink the spirit of the mountain breeze?
And from her Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation, 1793:
If an oppressive law, or a destructive war, were of the nature of a volcano or a hurricane, proceeding from causes totally independent of our operations, all we should have to do, would be to bow our heads in silent submission, and to bear their ravages with a manly patience. We do not repent of a dangerous disorder or a sickly constitution, because these are things which do not depend upon our own efforts…But we are called upon to repent of national sins, because we can help them, and because we ought to help them.
There are some, whose nerves, rather than whose principles, cannot bear cruelty — like other nuisances, they would not chuse it in sight, but they can be well content to know it exists, and that they are indebted for it to the increase of their income, and the luxuries of their table.
Davies, Lady Eleanor: The Benediction, 1651. Davies published a number of works in which she interpreted Biblical prophecies in Daniel and Revelation through anagrams, numerology, and other tools to apply to current events. She anagrammed her own maiden name, Eleanor Audelie, as “Reveale O Daniel.” This document asserts God’s blessing on Oliver Cromwell.
By whom Decypher’d that Generals Thundring Donative his the Crown and Bended Bowe (Rev. 6.) That Seal or Box of Nard opened; as much to say, O: Cromwel, Renowned be Victorious so long as Sun Moon continues or livever.
Anagram, Howl Rome: And thus with one voice, come and see, O: C: Conquering and to Conquer went forth.
Take a look at the WWO database while it’s still Women’s History Month!