Creating Mother: Mother's Legacies in the Context of the Conduct Literature of Seventeenth-Century England
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This thesis, focusing on seventeenth-century English writers, examines the genre of Mothers’ Legacies in relation to the conduct literature being written around the same time. It discusses the manner in which the women writers of Mothers’ Legacies both confirm and deny the ideal form of womanhood laid out by conduct writers. By writing from the place of the mother, these women are fulfilling a socially prescribed role, but by publishing for a wide audience, they are stepping out of their traditional domestic domain. The end result of this thesis is the delineation and explanation for the gap between what seventeenth-century women are told to do and what they actually do. First, the thesis looks at the various attitudes and opinions held by men about the “Can and Cannots" of womanhood. Then, it examines the rhetorical platforms women must erect in order to maintain social approval as they move from the domestic (feminine) sphere to the public (masculine) sphere. The research looks for social and historical factors that could explain the presence of the niche that enabled women to publish their works. (For example, this was a time period marked by high death rates and religiopolitical turmoil partially in response to the Protestant Reformation of the previous century. Therefore, a mother’s fear of early death or worries about the unstable state of politics and religion could have been thought of as justification for them to publish their wisdom, which could then be passed down to guide future generations.) The research is mostly based on analysis of seventeenth-century printed books and manuscripts containing the Legacies and conduct books, but it also draws on secondary sources that discuss pertinent information such as the history of seventeenth-century England and the biographies of the writers.
Morales, Cecilia Ann (2013). Creating Mother: Mother's Legacies in the Context of the Conduct Literature of Seventeenth-Century England. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from