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Books about women

Books by women
Suffragette literature
Books compiled by women
Books translated by women
Books for women
Books about women
Biographies of women
On women's education
Owned by women
Illustrated by women
Published by women

A treatise of feme covers: or, The lady's law. Containing all the laws and statutes relating to women. London : Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, for B. Lintot, 1732. Sp Coll 333

The author states in the preface of this volume  "When a Man and Woman are join'd in Matrimony, the Women is called a Feme Covert, and the Law regards them but as one person. And an ancient Author has assur'd us, that all Women, in the Eye of the Law, are either married or to be married; and their Desires are subject to their Husbands... A  to the following Treatise it contains, beside the Law of Marriage, the Laws and Statutes concerning Women in general. But some Things of Entertainment are mix'd with the Law; and our old Laws and Customs relating to Women, are many of them merry." 

Sophia, pseud. Beauty's triumph: or, the superiority of the fair sex invincibly proved... In three parts...  London, 1751. Sp Coll Ferguson Ai-d.25.

This volume is divided into three sections: I - Women not inferior to man. II - An attempt to refute Sophia's arguments; and to prove the natural right of the men to sovereign authority over the other sex. III - Proving women superior is  in excellence to man. The writer asserts the notion that if women had the same advantages of education as men "they would excel their Tyrants as much in Sense as they do in Virtue."

Hayley, William. A philosophical, historical and moral essay on old maids ; by a friend of the Sisterhood ... London : Printed for T. Cadell, 1785. Sp Coll 310-312.

William Hayley (1745-1820) was a biographer, poet, patron of the arts and friend of William Blake. Hayley published numerous poems including The triumphs of temper. In writing this essay Hayley was sincerely of the opinion that he was defending the "old maids" of the community. When women reviled him for the publication, he professed himself deeply grieved. Miss Anna Seward said that the book "so wantonly betrayed the cause it affected to defend that she could wish it had never passed the press."


  Title page from  A treatise of feme covers: or, The lady's law

Birkhead, Henry. The Female Rebellion. Manuscript. 16??. MS Hunter 635 (T.5.21)

The flyleaf of this manuscript reads "The Female Rebellion | A | Tragicomedy | Edam quisquis erit color ævi, sive theatri: | Vellem convivis, malo placere cocis". The manuscript was printed for private circulation in Glasgow in 1872, edited by Alexander Smith, who assigned its date to the latter part of the reign of Charles II. The autograph of the play is considered to be MS Tanner 466 in the Bodleian (see letter of Joan Puttock Wesson, 3 August 1985) and this copy may have been made by his sister after his death.  The manuscript describes the rebellion of Amazons, and contains some familiar women's rights arguments. Below, the Prologue and first page of Act I of the play are shown.

Prologue and first page of Act 1 from The Female Rebellion

Agrippa Von Nettesheim, Meinrich Cornelius. A treatise of the nobilitie and excellencye of woman kynde. [Londini] : In aedibus Thomae Bertheleti, 1542. Sp Coll Ferguson Ai-g.51 

Agrippa's De nobalitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus was published in 1529, dedicated to his patroness at Brussels, the Princess Margaret. Prefacing his essay with the statement that the difference of sex is merely physical and does not extend to the soul or rational power, Agrippa maintained women's superiority on various grounds and states that women can do all that men do, be it in priestly service, in prophecy, philosophy, oratory, poetry or inventions. He closes with an eloquent peroration on women's wrongs.

This translation was done by David Clapham. Another translation by Henry Care, entitled Female pre-eminence was published in London in 1670.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A vindication of the rights of women. London : Printed for J. Johnson, 1792. Sp Coll 306

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was a stringent advocate for the social equality and education of women. During her life Wollstonecraft worked as a governess and translator, and published numerous works including A vindication of the rights of women. In this volume Wollstonecraft calls for equal education with men, equal opportunities to enter the professions, the right of married women to own property and to have  a share in the custody of children in the case of separations. Wollstonecraft also wanted divorce to be made less difficult for women, and that men should be legally responsible for their illegitimate children.

Mill, John Stuart. The subjunction of women. London: Longmans, 1869. Sp Coll 395

John Stuart Mill had been elected M.P. for Westminster in 1865, and had introduced a bill for giving votes to women. Although this bill was thrown out, it received enough support to encourage him to continue his efforts, and this event is often heralded as the advent of the women's suffrage movement. In 1869 The subjunction of women was published, its purpose being to show "that the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes - the legal subordination of one sex to the other - is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement, and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality."

Page 38: 'Nova nupta Bononiensis' from the Album amicorum

Album amicorum habitibus mulierum omni˜u nation˜u Europae, tum tabulis ac scutis vacuis in aes incisis adornatum, ut quisque et symbola et insignia sua gentilitia in ijs depingi commodè curare possit.  Lovanii : Apud Ioannem Baptistam Zangrium, 1601. Sp Coll S.M. 14

This volume consists of 130 leaves engraved on the recto side only. However, the volume only contains pictures of thirty four costumes, the remainder being taken up with blank shields and frames intended for inscriptions and arms of the owner's friends. Most of the costumes are copied form Habitus variarum orbis gentium by J.J. Boissard