And we have reached the end…

This is somewhat of a bittersweet moment prepping my last blog. It could be due to the fact that I completely made a mockery of the blogging assignment by leaving most of it until the last minute with few excuses (now I must tend to my aching fingers…), OR it could be due to the fact that, looking back, I realize how much I learned during this term and I can’t even begin to measure the amount respect I have gained for women writers (I’m going to go with this option…).

As an English Major, you learn about the patriarchal societies, the lack of freedom women had, the pressures placed upon them to be upstanding, respectable women.  What I did not realize or even think about was how HARD it would have been for women writers to share their voice/opinion during that time and have it be heard and respected in the same way as a man’s would have been.  They showed so much perseverance and strength, even if it meant somehow adapting the only avenues available to them in order to write and fulfill their dreams. They made do with what they were given, and their work still surrounds us, hundreds of years later.  That is such an accomplishment and feat! The only sad part is that most of these women were never able to experience  or witness the admiration and respect bestowed upon them by literary critics.  They struggled for years, and put up with the disrespect of the ‘learned man’, all the while biting their tongues (for the most part) and changing their names.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to put your entire world into your work, and then not be able to claim it as your own…just because you are a woman.

This course was humbling.  It opened my eyes to see, for the first time, that I am where I am today because of the trials and tribulations faced by these women we have just studied.  When I first registered for this course, I did so because it was a ‘must have’ for my degree.  It was for selfish reasons, and I expected it to be very uninteresting, given the time frame.  I am ashamed to say that I thought it would be the same old story over, and over again.  I gave no thought to the fact that the letters, poems, plays and books written by these women would be intimate and personal insights into their every day lives, their experiences, and their very creative and brilliant minds.

Now that I am more familiar with many  of these women writers, I’m going to take the time to read A Room of One’s Own again.  I have such a better understanding of who these women were, and what they stood for…I think that it will make me view this text in a new light.  I think Virginia Woolf did these women phenomenal justice with her essay.  They deserve all of that recognition, and more, in my opinion.  They did not have their own set of tools, so to speak, to write and work with.  They had to make do with what they were given and what they were permitted to do (or what they could get away with).  Considering the restrictions placed upon them in their everyday lives, I think that it is safe to say that they they came and they absolutely, amazingly conquered all!!

The Bluestockings

The only thing I could think of when I saw that Bryan and Amanda were doing their presentation on the Bluestockings was a movie that Dr. Maier showed us in ENGL 2102 a few years ago.  I have no idea what the name of the film is, or even who was in it (I’ve been through two additional years of school and had a baby since then…I don’t think I could tell you anything more about the film if my life depended on it)…but it was my first exposure to the Bluestockings and I remember really enjoying it and wanting to know more.

I really enjoyed Bryan and Amanda’s presentation on the Bluestockings (who wouldn’t??  FREE PRIZES to be had by all!!).  Hearing about the society really got me thinking.  It must have been so uplifting and ‘freeing’ for the women who were a part of this club to be able to freely discuss pertinent issues other than petty gossip, the weather and ‘proper’ female talk. Add educated men into the club and to the discussions…it must have been mind blowing at the time for people not involved in this society to understand the concept of these gatherings.  I like the fact that the club was initiated by women, and eventually it was these women who invited their male friends to join them.  I think it speaks wonders about the characters of the men involved in the club – the fact that they would respect and consider the literary opinion of these women really shows how far women writers had progressed over the years up until that point.  I know that this is something that we would take for granted on any given day in our present day lives, we – as women – can freely attend university, we can become political leaders, we can even run high stakes companies, all the while raising families and maintaining our households.  I feel as though we should give credit to the Bluestockings, for creating such a monumental shift in the presence of female opinion and for creating such a push to have their/our ‘learned’ voices heard.

This topic also made me think about things such as current day ‘book clubs’.  I’m personally not a part of one (who has time to read anything but text books when you’re in school…) but many of my friends are.  The concept is somewhat similar to what the Bluestockings did, but it’s as though modern day book clubs have taken a few steps back in the opposite direction of the Bluestockings.  I can’t think of any men included in these book clubs even though the literature they read includes all genres, and they tend to stay far away from your typical ‘chick lit’.   One day last summer I went to a book club meeting with a friend, to see what all the hype was about.  They discussed the book thoroughly for a solid 30 minutes, and then the gossiping and wine drinking began.  Thinking back on that night now, it makes me feel a bit of shame for what has become of us.  We don’t appreciate the freedom of voice and expression our female ancestors fought so hard to obtain for us.  Yes, times have changed and perhaps the tea drinking phenomena of eighteenth century England is the new wine drinking rage of our present day…I don’t know.  We’ll leave that one for the jury to decide. I just can’t help but think that women such as Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Vesey would shake their head in disapproval if they were to witness what has become of their hard work.

 

Wikipedia Assignment: Elizabeth Singer Rowe

I chose to do my Wikipedia assignment on Elizabeth Singer Rowe.  I picked her because the initial Wikipedia entry was extremely vague and short.  I thought that it would probably be much easier to tackle this assignment with an entry that has little to no information, as opposed to one that is overflowing with edits, facts and entries.

This is the information currently provided on Wikipedia:

She was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Portnell and Walter Singer, a dissenting minister. Born in Ilchester, Somerset, England, she began writing at the age of twelve and when she was nineteen, began a correspondence with John Dunton, bookseller and founder of the Athenian Society.

Between 1693 and 1696 she was the principal contributor of poetry to The Athenian Mercury, and many of these poems were reprinted in Poems on Several Occasions, also published by Dunton. This, her first collection, contains pastorals, hymns, an imitation of Anne Killigrew, and a “vehement defence of women’s right to poetry,”[1] in which she defends women, “over’rul’d by the Tyranny of the Prouder Sex.” The Thynnes, friends of Anne Finch, became her patrons. Courted by several men, notably Matthew Prior and Isaac Watts, she married poet and biographer Thomas Rowe, thirteen years her junior, in 1710. Their marriage was reportedly happy, but short: Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1715 and Elizabeth was inconsolable. She wrote the impassioned “On the death of Mr Thomas Rowe,” said to have been an inspiration for Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard (1720).[2] In it, she wrote “For thee at once I from the world retire, / To feed in silent shades a hopeless fire,” and indeed, made good her word and retired to her father’s house in Frome.

Her father died in 1719 and left her a considerable inheritance, half the annual income of which she gave to charity. Her literary production during these years was high, and most of the texts she published were devotional or moral. Though modern tastes may find these writings overly didactic, they were popular: her Friendship in Death went into sixty editions through the eighteenth century. At various times Pope, Richardson, and Johnson each praised her work. Despite the reputation of being a bereaved recluse, Singer Rowe maintained a wide and active correspondence and was closely involved in local concerns until she died of apoplexy at the age of sixty-two. Her works continued to be popular well into the nineteenth century, went through multiple editions, circulated on both sides of the Atlantic, and were frequently translated.

As was the case with all of the writers in this course, once I started reading and researching about her life, I was sucked in.  And I have to give myself an online ‘slap on the wrist’ for even admitting this…but I assumed that since the Wikipedia entry was so short and vague, there wouldn’t be much information available out there on this writer.  I thought that it was going to be TORTURE trying to come up with information to improve upon the current entry.  I could not have been more wrong.  This assignment really opened up my eyes to the world of Wikipedia and made me realize that (not that I would ever do research for a paper on this website) you have to dig into academic and credible sources to get to the heart of what you are researching.  That being said, it also opened up my eyes to the potential of this type of website.  It would be neat to have an academic version, such as Google Scholar, but for Wikipedia.  If used properly and well maintained, Wikipedia could be so valuable for students.  But as it stands right now, it’s best for it to be kept for searching out answers on trivia night, or for non-academic purposes.

Anyways, back to the assignment and the purpose of this blog entry.  With a quick search of the UNB online holdings (which I’ve grown very comfortable with since the library research assignment), I was able to find several peer reviewed academic journal articles about the life of Elizabeth SInger Rowe and her published pieces.  From there I searched the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as the Dictionary of Literary Biography and SHAZAM! I had more than enough material and information to help me along with this assignment.  I really enjoyed the whole process of this assignment, and now that I have one Wiki under my belt…maybe I’ll venture into the real editing world someday.  Probably not, but who’s to say it will never happen???

 

 

 

Katherine Philips and Aphra Behn

Let the battle begin…between the good and the bad…the righteous and the not-so-righteous of the eighteenth-century women’s writing.  I wanted to focus on these two women together, as I picture them the same way as I did Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Philips, being the ‘saintly’, perfect woman to whom all women should look up to.  Behn, the bad example; the woman women should turn their backs on, and not take anything she writes or says to heart.  For, in the eighteenth-century that was how they were viewed.

I can’t really say that I feel any differently than the eighteenth century readers would have felt about Philips.  From her biographies that I have read, she deserves all of the credit in the world.  She followed the ‘rules’ and did what was expected of women writers during that time.  She wrote under the pen name Orinda, and was one of the first accepted woman writers of the eighteenth century.  After her fathers death, her mother re-married and her step-father arranged her marriage to James Philips, a man significantly older than she was, at 16 years old.

It is no wonder that she had such great love and affection for her girlfriends.  At sixteen years old, she was still barely a child herself.  To be forced into this life, which I realize was acceptable during that time, still must have been so horrible and horrifying to her.  What would they have had in common?   What could they possibly talk about? He was old enough to be her father.  Yuck.  But the love she shared with her close girlfriends was something that she treasured and knew to be real.  They understood each other, and there seemed to be a deep love and affection for one another as is shown through the many poems she wrote.

Duh duh duhhhhhhh….and now we move on to Aphra Behn.  As a woman studying English literature and the lives of women writers of the past, I find Behn fascinating as well.  She seems to be the true fighter in this  ‘literary battle.’  While it seems as though Philips had everything handed to her (to a certain extent – especially comparing her life story to that of Behn’s), Aphra Behn deserves all of the praise and recognition in the world. While there is  little known of her early life,  I think that it is fitting that she is mentioned in A Room of One’s Own, and that Virginia Woolf suggests  that: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she — shady and amorous as she was.— who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you to-night: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.” Even well over two hundred years after she graced this earth, Behn was still not receiving the complete recognition she deserved.  Why is it so scandalous that she is buried in Westminster Abbey?  She had to face the criticisms of her contemporaries, all the while trying to support herself financially through her works.  Just the fact that Woolf mentions Behn in this text, to me, justifies her position as an influential female writer…A Room of One’s Own seems to be a modern day bibliography of ‘who’s who’ in terms of successful and influential female writers.

 

Margaret Cavendish

As was the case with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, before last term, I had never heard of this writer.  I feel as though it is an ignorance on my part, knowing now how hard female writers of the eighteenth-century worked and the effort they put into their writings.

When I first saw Cavendish’s name on the schedule all I could think of was something about an earring.  I remembered the classroom discussion from last term about how she wrote that there could possibly be small worlds within our world.  She was very interested in science and many people thought she was ‘crazy’.  That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge base of Cavendish.

After reading her biography for this specific week, I had a whole new respect and admiration for her.  She was a woman way ahead of her times and I feel as though she would almost fit into today’s society.  Her thoughts against animal testing/cruelty are really amazing.  I know that there are still people today who don’t feel that there is anything wrong with animal testing in today’s society.

It was also nice to see that she published her work under her proper name…something that was not the ‘norm’ for women writers of her time.  I think that these facts speak wonders for her character and personality.  To me, it says that she was a very strong willed and determined woman.  She saw the value in standing up for her beliefs and was proud of her accomplishments.  Most importantly, I love the fact that she refused to apologize for her grammar mistakes…I take that as her way of throwing it back into the faces of her male contemporaries.  Even though she was lacking the proper education that they all rightfully received, she was succeeding none the less with her writing.  I’m sure that the women readers of her time appreciated her work even more for this.

Library Research Assignment Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

I did my library research assignment on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. I have to admit, in the beginning, I found this to be one of the most challenging and confusing assignments I’ve ever been tasked to do in any of my courses.  I felt completely overwhelmed and also had no idea if I was doing it properly or not.  When I first did a search on Lady Mary through the library website, it came back with over 1000 hits.  I had no idea how I was supposed to sift through all of that information.  I think I started and restarted this assignment at least 5 or 6 times before I felt like giving up for good. Fortunately, with the extension from Dr. Jones, and a better understanding of what she expected from us, I was able to figure this out and in the end, it wasn’t so bad after all.

I knew a little bit about Lady Mary from a previous course last term, but before that – I had never heard of her before.  I found her to be so interesting…the list of things she was able to accomplish and witness first hand, as a woman in the eighteenth-century is mind boggling.  She traveled throughout Europe and documented these travels through her many letters back to family and friends in London.  She was able to experience first hand the personal lives of Turkish women; which was something that men had no access to at the time.  She was self-taught, ambitious and so determined to be independent in an age where women were expected to sit and look pretty  for their husbands.

It was apparent that the UNB holdings carried many of Lady Mary’s collection/letters, but most of these books were ebooks or only available in hard copy at the Fredericton library.  I was able to come up with four suggestions for new titles to add to the library’s collection which were available through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon.  It it nice that all of these resources are available to us from Fredericton and as online sources, but it would be even more beneficial if we could walk to the commons, and check out the book when we need it instead of having to wait for it to be delivered from Fredericton.

In the end, this assignment proved to be an eye opening experience.  I think I always took for granted documents which were available online, or through document delivery.  With this, I realized how it would make research assignments that much easier to do if the resources were available to us here on campus.

 

Queen Elizabeth – The Virgin Queen

Wow….this is frustrating…I just wrote an entire post and clicked on “save draft” and the whole thing disappeared.  So here we go again…

We did our presentation on Queen Elizabeth I and I immediately became completely intrigued with her while researching her life story.  I loved how she did things ‘her’ way, and how successful she was with ruling her country and its people.  She was graceful enough to accept and listen to the suggestions and recommendations of her advisers, but ultimately followed her gut feelings on any decisions she made.

Although she eventually adopted the name of “The Virgin Queen”, in her early years, she was anything but. Few historians believe that Elizabeth rejected the idea of marriage as a deliberate act of will.  On the contrary, on two separate occasions during her early reign,  Elizabeth indicated that she wanted to marry two particular suitors.  In 1560, she gave every appearance of being in love with Lord Robert Dudley, a son of Northumberland and the master of her horse.  The only problem was that Dudley was married. Rumours spread that Elizabeth would marry him if his wife, Amy Robsart, died.

In September 1560, Amy did die under mysterious circumstances. In a country home, without her husband present, she fell down a staircase, breaking her neck. Investigators did not implicate Dudly and historians have  doubted that he conspired against her.  Because of this controversy, but also because of the unpopularity of the Dudley Family, sometime that winter, Elizabeth decided that she would not marry him. Politically, the fierce opposition to her choice of husband expressed in Council, at court and in the country in at large also led Elizabeth to conclude that she would lose the support of influential subjects and create grave political difficulties if she went ahead with this particular match.

Elizabeth then devoted herself and her life to the well-being and success of her country.  It was said that leading up to her death, her coronation ring had to be cut from her finger as the skin had begun to grow around it.  That, my friends, is dedication to your country.