By Catherine Kerrison
In 1711, the imperious Virginia patriarch William Byrd II spitefully refused his spouse Lucy's plea for a e-book; a century later, woman Jean Skipwith put an order that despatched the Virginia bookseller Joseph Swan scurrying to thrill. those vignettes bracket a century of switch in white southern women's lives. Claiming the Pen bargains the 1st highbrow heritage of early southern ladies. It situates their analyzing and writing in the literary tradition of the broader Anglo-Atlantic international, so far understood to be a masculine province, at the same time they inhabited the constrained, provincial social circles of the plantation South.
Catherine Kerrison uncovers a brand new realm of woman schooling during which conduct-of-life advice―both the dry pedantry of sermons and the risqué plots of novels―formed the middle interpreting application. girls, she reveals, discovered to imagine and write via interpreting prescriptive literature, now not Greek and Latin classics, in impromptu domestic study rooms, instead of faculties and universities, and from kinfolk and acquaintances, instead of schoolmates and professors. Kerrison additionally unearths that southern ladies, of their willingness to "take up the pen" and so declare new rights, seized upon their racial superiority to offset their gender inferiority. In depriving slaves of schooling, southern girls claimed literacy as a privilege in their whiteness, and perpetuated and reinforced the repressive associations of slavery.