Women in Towns as Keepers of the Word: The Example of Warwickshire During the 1780s to 1830s
Towns offered women an ideal outlet for these roles as ‘keepers and agents’ of the word in the developing urban culture of the period, when communication was essential to the sustenance and maintenance of public life. From the eighteenth century the iconography of women reading became more secular, and so did the Word itself, a remarkable process to which women have contributed greatly as avid readers, interpreters, propagators, and creators in the domain of the written word. Just like Anna Larpent in London, as described by John Brewer, women in the towns of Warwickshire had plenty of opportunity for reading. A varied literature was distributed and abundantly available on the market place, in the form of cheap tracts, handbills, primers, chapbooks, etc. Women who were teachers, or mothers, or both, frequently wrote their own primers and textbooks of stories and poems, according to their requirements, and also for reasons of economy.