"For the continuance of their favours": Women, the public sphere and the print culture in England, 1750-1760
Focussing on letters from readers of "ladies' thinspace" periodicals as well as advertisements placed by women in the provincial newspaper, The Ipswich Journal, this thesis historically examines women's use of the growing print culture in England from 1750 to 1760. Notions that women overwhelmingly accepted and articulated the "domestic sphere" ideology at this time are contradicted by historical evidence. Despite the constraints imposed by prescriptive literature, women who used the print culture in eighteenth-century England asserted their public economic and social lives. Women's public and non-domestic lives were not effectively stifled by the didactic literature and domestic ideology they daily faced, and thus prescriptive literature acted less in the simple hegemonic way that many feminist literary theorists insist. Constructions of "norms" of feminine behavior were constantly contested in the print culture in the 1750s, and women served as active and public historical agents.