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ERIC Number: EJ721410
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Nov
Pages: 21
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0046-760X
Interpreting Letters and Reading Script: Evidence for Female Education and Literacy in Tudor England
Daybell, James
History of Education, v34 n6 p695-715 Nov 2005
Attempts to write the history of female education are hampered by the relative informality of teaching provision for women in early modern England. Since most women were excluded from male centres of learning--the grammar schools, universities and Inns of Court--historians are deprived of institutional records, which so well elucidate the education of boys and young men. By contrast, the majority of women were taught within the household or the Church, a practice that has left comparatively few documentary sources beyond a small number of educational texts, occasional details of educational provision in household accounts, and passing references in autobiographical writings and correspondence. Likewise, universal "guesstimates" of female literacy--at its most basic definition, the ability to read and write--based on sampling signatures are quantitative, offering limited (if any) analysis of the nature and extent of women's reading and writing abilities. The ability to perform a rudimentary signature rather than making a mark, an act that could be learnt as a trick, does not provide a qualitative indication of the extent of individuals' literacy skills. It cannot reflect the fluency and frequency with which women wrote or indicate whether they could pen letters, maintain accounts, keep a diary, or write poetry and plays; nor does it register complex comprehension and reading practices. This article seeks to provide a more complex and nuanced picture of the range and hierarchies of female writing and reading abilities in England during this period. Sixteenth-century women's letters, it will be argued, are unique sources not only as physical evidence of rudimentary writing activity and abilities--for example, the quality of women's handwriting, the nature of their spelling and composition--but also in that they document "higher" forms of female literacy, such as the ownership and reading of books, familiarity with classical literature and history, and interest in areas as diverse as music, poetry, medicine, theology, architecture and play-going. (Contains 120 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (England)