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Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England$
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James Daybell

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199259915

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199259915.001.0001

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Female Literacy and the Social Conventions of Letter-Writing

Female Literacy and the Social Conventions of Letter-Writing

(p.91) 4 Female Literacy and the Social Conventions of Letter-Writing
Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England

James Daybell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines developments in the social conventions of letter-writing, outlining factors affecting modes of composition. It identifies reasons why women who were normally able to write letters might sometimes employ an amanuensis, when it was acceptable to do so, and when it was important to write in one's own hand. It argues that a crucial distinction lay in the purpose of writing between business writing, which was considered menial, routine, and technical; and private and personal writing, which was intimate, spontaneous, and creative. It further shows that by the end of the 16th century, the ability to write transformed from being treated as a reserve skill by women of the aristocracy to a practical skill useful in everyday life. Utilizing letters as a source for studying education, this chapter provides a nuanced depiction of the range and hierarchies of female writing and reading abilities in Tudor England.

Keywords:   social conventions, amanuensis, female education, female literacy, privacy, purpose of writing, business writing, personal writing

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