We are delighted to announce that Women Writers Online (WWO) will once again be free during the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month. The collection contains more than 430 texts written and translated by women, published between 1526 and 1850.
We also invite you to explore our other publications, which are always open access. These include Women Writers in Review (WWiR), a collection of close to 700 reviews of and responses to works in WWO, and Women Writers in Context (WWiC), a collection of essays exploring topics related to early women’s writing.
If you haven’t visited WWO before, there are multiple ways to discover new texts. For example, you can filter through texts based on genre and publication year or use the search bar to look for specific keywords. You can also browse themes and topics from WWiR or WWiC because both collections link back to the texts in WWO.
To provide one more way to help people get started with WWO, we’ve included some of our favorite texts below.
Representations of Race in the Early Modern Archive
In 2020, the WWP began work on a collaborative project, which asks whether and how digital collections of historical texts can represent racialized identities. As part of this project, we have been continuing to add texts written by or attributed to women of color to the WWO collection. Recent additions include Mary Prince’s abolitionist autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, and the Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book, attributed to Chloe Russell, “A Woman of Colour of the State of Massachusetts.” Another new addition is the Journal of Betsey Stockton, describing her journey to Hawaii for missionary work.
We also have been adding texts that engage with early modern categories of race. Elizabeth Hamilton’s 1796 Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (vol. 1, vol. 2) satirizes the major issues of British society in her day, offering a primary insight into 18th-century British debates about colonial expansion. Claire DeDuras’s 1824 Ourika is the story of an African woman who is given to a noble lady in Paris as a child. Raised as a ward in the lady’s salons, Ourika’s racial and class identities trouble early modern notions of race and class. The first volume of the 1767 novel The Female American, originally published under a male pseudonym by an unknown author, resembles the story of Robinson Crusoe but features a biracial female protagonist whose thoughts on colonialism and her own identity complicate the genre.
A Little Romance
There are many romances in WWO, including Mary Wroth’s Urania, which has adventure, betrayal, a lost princess, and pirates. If you enjoy reading about reformed rakes, moonlight seductions, and mistaken identities, we have all three volumes of Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess. Or, for a bit of satire on romance, check out Sarah Green’s Romance Readers and Romance Writers, whose author exclaims:
Would that, like the monster Briareus, I could strike a hundred blows in the same instant, and that all the vampers of romance, who merit annihilation, were in my presence!—they are the vermin of literature—their spawn creep to our fire-sides, and cover our tables, our chairs, our sofas and our mantle-pieces; we find them in the bed-chambers of our daughters; nay, not unfrequently are they placed beneath their pillows, to occupy their minds at day-break, or to beguile a sleepless night.
We have plays by Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to make a living from her writing. Her 1671 The Amorous Prince, or, the Curious Husband is a cheeky comedy about aristocracy and decadence. Here’s a peek from the prologue:
Well! you expect a Prologue to the Play,
And you expect it too Petition-way;
With Chapeau bas, beseeching you t’excuse,
A damn’d Intrigue of an unpractic’d Muse;
Tell you it’s fortune waits upon your smiles,
And when you frown, Lord how you kill the whiles!
We have several works of children’s fiction, including Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories, which has a family of talking robins, and Maria Edgeworth’s The Little Dog Trusty; the Orange Man; and the Cherry Orchard, which teaches, among other lessons, that “Cunning people, though they think themselves very wise, are almost always very silly.”
A Cook’s Guide
Maybe you’d like to try a new recipe — if so, you should check out Hannah Woolley’s Cook’s Guide. Here’s just one example of its delicious contents:
To make little Apple paſties to fry. Take pared Apples and cut them into ſmall pieces to ſtew, ſtew them to papp with claret wine and ſpice, then put in a good piece of ſweet butter, cinnamon, ginger, roſe-water, ſugar and plumped currans; then put them into the puff-paſte and fry them, ſo ſerve them in with ſugar.
The anonymous author of The wonderful discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower, daughters of Joan Flower neere Bever Castle: Executed at Lincolne, March 11. 1618 tells the tragic story of sisters tried for witchcraft, including “the manner of their proceedings and revenges, with other particulars belonging to the true and plaine discovery of their villany and Witch-craft.”
Solving Relationship Problems with Cross-dressing
Playwright Hannah Cowley answers the relationship questions you never knew you had — how to use cross-dressing to add a little spice to your life, how to manipulate your father into ordering you to marry the man of your dreams, how to get that man to want to marry you in the first place, and much more. Husband have a wandering eye? Victoria demonstrates how to dress like a man and seduce hubby’s mistress in A Bold Stroke for a Husband. If he won’t disguise himself as your dressmaker, it’s not true love. Just ask Elizabeth from Who’s the Dupe?
Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World is sometimes called the first science fiction novel; it describes a woman’s journey, by way of the north pole, to a world with Fish-men, Bear-men, and Worm-men—among quite a few others. We also have many other works by Cavendish — including her plays, historical and scientific writings, and letters.
We hope you enjoy the collection!