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Books by 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



Emblem 1 from Emblemes, ou deuises chrestiennes 

Montenay, Georgette de. Emblemes, ou deuises chrestiennes. Lyon : Par Jean Marcorelle, 1571. Sp Coll S.M. 771 

Georgette de Montenay was the author of the first religious emblem book. Inspired by Alciati's work Emblem liber, Montenay composed one hundred Christian emblems and consequently dedicated the volume to Jeanne d'Albert, Queen of Navarre. D'Albert raised Montenay and was a close friend, and she is pictured in the first emblem of the book, building a wall. This volume was first published in 1567 in French, but was consequently translated into Latin in 1584. The engravings are by Pierre Woeriot.

Schurman, Anna Maria. Opuscula Hebrae, Graeca, Latina, Gllicia: prosaica & metrica. Editio secunda. Leyden: 1650.  Sp Coll BC19-g.23 

Anna Maria von Schuman (1607-1678) can be described as one of the earliest feminists - speaking of the position of women as their "cause". A learned woman Schurman was proficient in over ten languages, was well versed in geography, astronomy, philosophy, the sciences, theology and was an accomplished poet. One of her most famous works,  entitled De inegnii muliebris ad doctinam et meiores litteras aptidine, was translated into English as The learned maid, or Whether a maid be a scholar? in 1659. In this she argues that women are capable of profiting by an education and have a right to the benefits of liberal studies.

This volume is a collection of works by Schurman, including essays, letters and poems. Manuscript notes are written on the flyleaf, possibly notes to references. The first edition of this work can be found at Sp Coll T.C.L 822.

Astell, Mary. Some reflections upon marriage. London : Printed for John Nutt, 1700. Sp Coll Ferguson Ao-f.1 

Mary Astell (1668-1731) was one of the foremost champions of women's education in the seventeenth century and was the author of two major feminist works, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694,1997) and Some reflections upon marriage (1700). In the latter of these works she discusses the problem of finding a suitable husband, investigating this from a woman's perspective. Astell  argues that the education of women will improve their condition by giving them greater wisdom in choosing a husband - insisting on the importance of education in enabling a wife to act wisely in the varied crises of married life.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft.  Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus.  London: 1818. Sp Coll Z9-h.29-31 

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of the philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836)  and the feminist and author Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), and the second wife of  Percy Shelley (1792-1822) . This volume is Mary Shelley's most famous work, the story of a young students creation of a monster. Shelly did however publish numerous pieces of fiction and non fiction including Valperga, or The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca (1823) and History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817), co-written with her husband.

Title page from Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus 

Baillie, Joanna. To a child, holograph manuscript. (fl.  1762-1851.) MS Gen 542/18

Joanna Baillie (1762-1851) , Scottish playwright and poet, was a major figure in Romantic literary movement. A contemporary of William Godwin, Baillie was not only an esteemed literary figure, but also published literary theory in  the shape of  "Introductory Discourse", published anonymously as an introduction to "A Series of Plays on the Passions". Baillie also gave much to the world of drama and theatre, successfully producing De Monfort in 1800 in Drury Lane and penning numerous lyrics. Outside the theatre and literary world, Baillie proved to be an amazing person. Baillie sponsored new laws on copyright and was heavily involved with anti-slavery legislation. Baillie hailed from a remarkable family, with her uncles being  John and William Hunter. The department holds a number of manuscript material by Baillie including letters, lyrics and this short poem.

Montagu, Mary Wortley.  Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--y W----y M-----e: written, during her travels in Europe, Asia and Africa, to
persons of distinction ... 
London: 1763. Sp Coll Bl10-l.4 

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is primarily remembered as a prolific letter writer and traveller, although she was also a poet, essayist and feminist. Married to Edward Wortley Montagu, who was appointed to the post of ambassador to Turkey in 1716, they lived in Constantinople (Istanbul) for two years. It was whilst in Turkey that Montagu noticed the practice of inoculation against smallpox, which she later pioneered in England. This volume was written after her return from Turkey, using journals and letters as source material. The work was well received throughout Europe.

Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn.  Ruth. London: 1853. Sp. Coll. Z2-h.1-3

During her lifetime Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) published numerous works concerned with contemporary social issues. Her first novel "Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life" highlights key social issues such as urban poverty, Chartism and the relationship between workers and their masters. The sympathy that Gaskell showed for workers caused much controversy, as did the publication of "Ruth" in 1853. This work deals with the double standard, the treatment of "fallen women" and the moral conventions that would almost certainly condemn them to ostracism from society, and possibly a life of prostitution. This book shocked the Victorian middle classes, to the extent that the volume was banned from many libraries.

Rosetti, Christina. Goblin market and other poems. London: Macmillan, 1865. Second edition. Sp. Coll. 393

Christian Rossetti (1830-1894) is regarded  as one of the most important female poets of the 19th century. Rossetti is associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which influenced her poetry.  During her lifetime Rossetti published a number of works, perhaps her most famous poem being the  Goblin Market. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was inspired by this work, providing illustrations for the publication. Rossetti was a religious women and this influenced both her personal life and her writing, with this volume containing a number of devotional poems. 

Blackwell, Elizabeth. Autograph letter, undated, to Miss Anderson.  MS Gen 510/45 

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman doctor of medicine. Born in Bristol, Blackwell emigrated with her family to the United States at the age of twelve. In 1847 Blackwell entered the Geneva Medical Scholl of Western new York, and graduated as an M.D. in 1849. She then studied at la Maternitiť, Paris and the St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. In 1869 Blackwell settled in England and became professor of Gynecology in the London School of Medicine for Women. This is an autograph letter signed January 22 [18??], from Elizabeth Blackwell, to Miss Anderson. This letter was found in MS Gen 676, two bound notebooks written by George S. Middleton on lectures by Sir William Tennant Gairdner. The letter itself advises Miss Anderson on undertaking medical education, with the possibility of Miss Anderson undertaking a degree. Dr. Blackwell states that "I think a good medical education is a most valuable method of training the mind for practical usefulness."


Title-page from Goblin Market and other poems