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'To Make Frequent Assemblies, Associations, And Combinations Amongst Our Sex'. Nascent Ideas Of Female Bonding In Seventeenth-Century England

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Chapter Summary

In view of the numerous defences of women published throughout the seventeenth century in the context of the querelle des femmes, one might suppose the existence of female solidarity in early modern England. Women who wrote were, first of all, members of the heterosocial community of a family and, sometimes, of the royal court. The young Aemilia Lanyer took part in Elizabethan court life as the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, the Lord Chamberlain. A similarly idiosyncratic fantasy of a female community is created a few decades later by Margaret Cavendish in one of her plays. Bathsua Makin's Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen was written and published with a view to an immediate practical effect. Female education was Makin's life-long concern. Cartesian feminism, combined with John Locke's emphasis on the importance of experience, offered an epistemological framework for women's claim to a full participation in intellectual life.

Keywords: Aemilia Lanyer; Bathsua Makin; cartesian feminism; Margaret Cavendish; seventeenth-century England



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