The Word Of The Body: Gender And The Body In The Writings Of The Bluestocking Circle, 1750-1800 / “Grass Growing Where None Grew Before”: Community, Family, And Identity For New England Seafarers’ Wives, Based On Their Diaries, 1797-1802
Master of Arts (M.A.)
The Word of the Body: Gender and the Body in the Writings of the Bluestocking Circle, 1750-1800:This paper explores the role of gender and the body in the writings of members of the Bluestocking Circle, a social and intellectual network of wealthy British women that was active during the eighteenth century. The paper covers pieces written between 1750 and 1800, and in it I argue that the women of the Bluestocking Circle used bodily experiences and different perceptions of the body to articulate ideas about gender transgression. I relate this to the concept of “unsexing.” To be “unsexed” as a wealthy white woman in eighteenth-century England was to have lost both the emotional and physical qualities of femininity in one’s pursuit of “masculine” public and intellectual activities. Unsexing highlights how eighteenth-century gender was fundamentally mutable and unstable. For the Bluestockings, it was their pursuit of knowledge that created that dimension of instability. “Grass Growing Where None Grew Before”: Community, Family, and Identity for New England Seafarers’ Wives, Based on Their Diaries, 1797-1802:This paper discusses the experiences of two women in New England who were both married to whalemen. They are Abigail Gardner Drew, on the island of Nantucket, and Lydia Hill Almy, just across the water in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Lydia kept her diary from 1797-1799, while her husband was whaling off of Cape Horn. Abigail wrote consistently in her diary from 1799-1802, but the document also includes fragmentary entries from 1803-1818. Her husband was at sea for some of this time and home for short bouts in between voyages. I argue that what the drudgery, distress, and inner thoughts of these women attest to are the complexities of life for the wives of seafarers. Their ways of life aligned in some ways with the same rhythms of the sea that commanded the time, presence, and labor of their husbands, but their experiences of the mobility and instability engendered by the maritime economy were specific to their positions as moderately well-off white women. This interplay of mobility and instability was based in the willingness of their communities to care for them, a mutual desire for affective community with other women, and the consistency of their identities of wives and mothers.
© The Author
Bowthorpe, Avonlea, "The Word Of The Body: Gender And The Body In The Writings Of The Bluestocking Circle, 1750-1800 / “Grass Growing Where None Grew Before”: Community, Family, And Identity For New England Seafarers’ Wives, Based On Their Diaries, 1797-1802" (2023). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1697552681.
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