Publication Date



letters, English historian, women's studies


Almost fifty years ago Wallace Notestein, an English historian, commented that while both the men and the women of late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century England remain "strangers" and “shadowy figures” to us, the women are “much more shadowy.” Pointing out that “Our knowledge of women comes largely from the incidental mention of them by men who seldom took pains to characterize and individualize them,” he insisted that “It is as individuals that we must know them, if we are to understand them as members of a sex.” Obviously a great deal has changed for the better. We know much more about the lives of some women in early modern England, thanks to recent developments in women’s studies, the impact of feminist theory, and the sustained interdisciplinary research that has led to the recovery of diaries, memoirs, and letters; the exploration of records, inventories, and other documents (household, parish, and court); and biographies, sophisticated studies, and critical editions of the texts of writers and public figures—including Queen Elizabeth, Mary Sidney, the Cooke sisters, Anne Clifford, Lucy, countess of Bedford, and Arbella Stuart.