Leonie Hannan
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In a period before women had equal educational opportunities, the home was an important arena for self-education. Women worked, in the home, in ways that were not confined to the rigours of household management: they spent time reading, thinking and writing. Female letter-writers testified to the importance of their environment in shaping their mental outlook and ability to pursue contemplative activities. Moreover, domestic space was experienced through time and the way that time was allotted mediated letter-writers’ experiences of the life of the mind. In other words, a quiet closet with books was no use to a woman without the time to spend in that space. This chapter explores the early modern home as a site of female knowledge production by focusing on the way women won time for quiet study within that space. The discussion also considers the ways in which physical and mental spaces were interconnected.

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Women of letters

Gender, writing and the life of the mind in early modern England


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