Making space: English women, letter-writing, and the life of the mind, c.1650-1750

Leonie Hannan*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    264 Downloads (Pure)


    This article uses women's letter-writing from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to explore the home as a site of female intellectual endeavour. Far from representing a static backdrop to the action of domestic life, the home played a dynamic role in women's experiences of the life of the mind and shaped the ways in which women thought and wrote. Letters were penned in dining rooms, parlours and closets, by firesides, and on desks and laps. In their letters, women projected images of themselves scribbling epistles to friends in order to maintain their mental intimacy. Space was both real and imagined and the physical realities of a hand-written and hand-delivered letter gave way to the imaginative possibilities brought by networks of epistolary exchange and the alternative spaces of creative thought. By reinstating the home more fully in the history of female intellectual experience, a more nuanced view of the domestic arena can be developed: one that sees the home not as a site of exclusion and confinement, but as a space for scholarship and exchange. 

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)589-604
    JournalWomen's History Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusEarly online date - 24 Aug 2012


    • gender
    • intellectual life
    • space
    • letter-writing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Gender Studies


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