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Filed Under History 299

Primary Print (only one primary print, as of now):

Betty S. Travitsky and Patrick Cullen, ed., The Early Modern Englishwoman:  A Facsimile LIbrary of Essential Works Part 1:  Printed Writings, 1500-1640 (Brookfield, Vermont:  SCOLAR PRESS, 1996), 25-61.

Secondary Print:

Christopher Lasch, Women and the Common Life:  Love Marriage, and Feminism (New York, NY:  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997), 4-5.

Joan Kelly, Women, History & Theory (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1984), 65-109.

Susan Mosher Stuard, ed., Women in Medieval History & Historiography (Philadelphia, PA:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987).


Renaissance Society of America, “Review of The Early Modern ENglishwoman:  A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, Part 1:  Printed Writings, 1500-1640“, Renaissance Society of America, http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Early+Modern+Englishwoman%3A+A+Facsimile+Library+of+Essential…-a021240700 (accessed September 12, 2010).

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, “The Early Seventeenth Century”, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/17century/topic_2/speght.htm (accessed September 20, 2010).

Sunshine for Women, “Rachel Speght 1597-after 1621”, Sunshine for Women, http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/march99/speght3.html (accessed September 12, 2010).




Filed Under History 299

I realized I never posted my proposal paper:

Proposal:  Rachel Speght

Over the entirety of the history of mankind, the role of women in society has always been under fire.  Do they deserve to have a voice?  What is expected of them?  The proposed topic is centered on one such debate from the 17th century.  This argument is known as “La Querelle des Femmes” and went on for approximately three centuries.  It’s subject matter crossed borders of nations and involved a nearly constant battle of literary works between those who had misogynistic tendencies and attacked the character and role of women in society, and those who defended women.  Narrowing the matter down, the main focus is on Rachel Speght, a woman who ascertained a place of importance by defending her gender through a poem entitled “A Mouzell for Melastomus.”  This poem (written and published 1617) was in response to a 1615 satirical piece that attacked and berated females, written by Joseph Swetnam.  It is the confrontation between Speght and Swetnam that fuels the heart of this proposal.

The scope of issues and questions that the paper can address links together multiple avenues.  Primarily, the research will hopefully bring to light the effect of Speght’s work on the time:  Did it make a difference?  What were the effects?  If these angles prove to be too ambiguous to answer within the allotted time, it is possible tto shift the view and instead highlight the literary face-off between Rachel Speght and Joseph Swetnam—Was he truly as misogynistic as it seemed in his writing, or just following the pattern of his time period?  Was the tension between Speght and Swetnam more ideological, or did it have roots on a personal level?

As far as a primary source goes, Rachel Speght’s first writing, “A Mouzell for Melastomus,” is vital.  The book The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght (Speght) is a collection of her responses and beliefs in defense of women.  Within it, her argument against Swetnam is found, followed by some of the other pieces that serve to provide insight into her writing style and attitude.  Even more exciting than having just that version is this:  in the fourth volume of The Early Modern Englishwoman is a picture copy of the original work.  It provides a visual of the original pamphlet for added analysis.  In order to provide the opposing side of this particular argument, Joseph Swetnam’s piece The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women will need to be tracked down, though locating a solid, full copy is proving to be more difficult than anticipated.  However, this source will prove useful as it will be able to set down an opposing argument, as well as reflect the general sentiment of the time.  It is crucial to have primary sources from both Speght and Swetnam as it encompasses the entire debate between the two, from which this research project stems.

Plenty of secondary sources exist on this subject.  The debate is fueled by literary responses from those acting on behalf of, or against women.  Due to this fact, there are criticisms on the arguments proposed by Rachel Speght to combat attackers.  These will likely be more difficult to locate, but if found, literary criticism on the work will provide a better understanding of the meaning and intended direction of Speght’s work.  However, more important than criticisms at this point is background information.  It is important to be able to understand the mindset of the time period.  This understanding will allow for a more impartial analysis; as readers are used to an environment in which men/women are treated relatively equally, such matters are approached with a modern eye.  Putting oneself into the shoes of those who lived at this time allows for a better sense of the debate.  The secondary sources are also important for giving more details on what the “Querelle” was all about, a time span, and an idea of the major figures involved.  The secondary sources help break down the other particulars of the debate.  It is neither strictly a historical nor a literary movement; the two are intertwined, so in order to get a more full understanding of it, it is imperative to comfortably analyze from both perspectives.

Clearly the most critical resources are the primary sources:  the poem itself, as well as the printed visual of the original document.  In addition to the immediately obvious primary sources, the writings from other women of the time, some of which are referenced in The Early Modern Englishwoman (Askew), allow for a means by which to gauge the success of Speght’s work.  Did other such authors of her time seem to copy her ideas?  Does their style, word use, or opinion seem influenced?

Of the secondary sources, a handful will prove to be of the most use, laying foundation for the argument.  The rest, however, will most probably serve to simply double check what information is already gathered, and of those, the majority will likely have redundant content.  Sources such as “Qerelle des Femmes”, and the works by Spongberg, Stanford, and Stuard will benefit the research project as they provide the necessary information about the time period, as well as information on the major player of the debate at this time, which could contribute to determining what/who influenced Speght.  Many of the internet sites also simply are useful as backing up the aforementioned points; they provide information more so for factual reasons than for thought-invoking ones.

The “Querelle des Femmes” stretched over three centuries and pulled many a writer into its folds.  The questions that this paper addressed and hopes to answer involve:  Who was Rachel Speght and what role did she have in the Querelle?  Did she truly make a difference, either in her field or in the debate in general?  Again, as backup, the cause of the paper can also be championed by posing the following questions:  Were Rachel Speght and Joseph Swetnam simply following the ways of their era, or did they have more invested in the debate than is immediately noticed?  If at least one of these questions can be answered, then the others will hopefully fall into place.  There is much to analyze within the primary sources, but, fortunately, that background information, gleaned from the secondary sources, will provide a foundation from which to work.

Works Cited

Askew, Anne.  Jane Anger, Rachel Speght, Ester Sowernam, and Constantina Munda: The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, Part 1, Vol. 4. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996.

Askew, Anne.  Women Writers in English, 1350-1850:  The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, Part 2, Vol. 10. Aldershot: Scholar Press, 2001.

Charles Schriebner’s Sons.  “Querelle des Femmes.” http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/rens_04/rens_04_00395.html. (accessed September 12. 2010).

Hastings, Susan.   Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. Vol. 4.  Tulsa:  University of Tulsa, 1985.

Kelly, Joan.  Women, History, and Theory:  The Essays of Joan Kelly.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Lasch, Christopher.  Woman and the Common Life:  Love, Marriage, and Feminism. New York:  W. W. Norton & Co, 1997.

Speght, Rachel.  The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght.  New York:  Oxford University Press, Inc, 1996.

Renaissance Society of America.  Review of:  The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works. Part 1: Printed Writings, 1500-1640. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Early+Modern+Englishwoman%3A+A+Facsimile+Library+of+Essential…-a021240700 (accessed September 12th, 2010).

Spongberg, Mary.  Writing Women’s History since the Renaissance.  Illinois:  University of Southern Illinois, 2002.

Stanford, Ann, ed. The Women Poets in English. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.

Stuard, Susan Mosher, ed. Women in Medieval History and Historiography. Philadelphia:   University of Pennsylvania Press,1987.

Sunshine for Women.  “Rachel Speght:  1597-after 1621.”  http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/march99/speght3.html (accessed September 12, 2010).



Winsor Fail

Filed Under History 299

William J. Winsor Article:

I could not find much of anything on this man.  I searched his name, his name + Marguerite Powell, his name military references from the reading, his family names and the areas that were mentioned.  I even searched his grandfather’s name, Luther Harris, the painting companies, and the hotel Winsor and his wife opened.  No  luck aside from some genealogy sites that were not likely related to him and a link to an obituary that was sketchy.

Useful VS Unhelpful primary Source:

This link was useful as it provided a bit of needed background history on the Querelles des Femme and it had copyright info at the bottom.  However, its far from the BEST as its not a sound, accepted, historical site.  The best source for such a site would likely be a univeristy, but since the argument Rachel Speght put forth is more considered a literary argument, I think it is difficult to find an accepted history-based site with information on it.


From the literary perspective, the University of Oregon had input on the following link and thus, the compilation of writings would likely be useful for me as I feel it would provide access to multiple writings that were part of the Querelles des Femme


This link was unhelpful as, though it provided information that matched up with some i have gathered, there were many holes in it and inconsistencies.  It also lacked any information as to an author, group, or a date of when it was last updated.


A good primary source is the following link, as it is backed by a univeristy, and it has not only Speght’s first argument, but writings in response by others of that time period, as well.


This link leads to a primary source in PDF format, an exerpt from Baldassare’s The Book of the Courtier.  This is not particularly useful, though it may provide background information on the ideas of the Querelles des Femme.  The information that can be gathered from its reading would not really assist with my research for my specific area.



My topic is focused on the role of the counterarguments posed by women in response to the misogynistic attacks that characterized the Querelles des Femme.


1)  Did the majority of women side with the defense of their gender?

2)  How effective were the responses of women, such as Rachel Speght, in changing the idea of how the “proper” role of women should be defined?

3)  Specifically, did Rachel Speght’s writing of her response in English, as well as the use of her own name, thus making her the first woman to write in this manner, help boost her cause?

Worksheet on Choosing a Topic:

Choosing a topic for any paper is a process. Completing each of the following steps (in any order), should help you choose a topic that is appropriate for the assignment.

  1. Briefly describe the library research that you did towards choosing a topic. Include at least two reference books that you used and three library card catalog subject headings that you found useful.

Honestly, I’ve yet to do as much in depth research as I need, however, upon looking into a few avenues, I found:

Defences of women : Jane Anger, Rachel Speght, Ester Sowernam, and Constantia Munda by Susan Gushee O’Malley

Women’s history as scientists : a guide to the debates by Leigh Anne Whaley

As catalog subject headings go, the ones that seemed to get the most hits were:

-Women—Early Works to 1800



  1. Briefly describe the internet research that you did. What words did you google successfully? Name at least one useful website. Do not include web based library card catalogs in this section.

I googled “Querelles des Femme” as well as “Rachel Speght” most successfully

An informative website I found for information on the background of the Querelle des Femmes is:


  1. You should talk to at least one member of this history department about your topic, or at least an expert in your field. Name that expert and briefly describe his/her comments.

I met with Dr. Poska, the member of our history department who is focused on gender studies.  My meeting with her turned up the subject of the Querelle des Femmes, and thus led to Rachel Speght surfacing, which in turn brought up her role in the age old debate.

  1. You must have a primary source for this paper.  Provide any pertinent information on that primary source including website and/or call number

One of my primary sources is the poem Rachel Speght wrote in response to a very misogynistic attack by Joseph Swetnam.

A copy of the poem can be found on the Emory Women Writers Research Project page

  1. Are enough secondary sources available on this topic? Tell me a bit about what you found.

So far I’d say there are plenty of secondary sources on the subject.  A lot of them are either analyses of the responses made by those defending women, or they are explaining the time period and what the effects of the responses were.

  1. Finally, describe your conversations with me about your topic and how your topic has evolved as a result.

I’ve yet to meet with you to discuss my subject matter, but I will soon do that and hopefully it will sharpen my focus of my subject even further.

In the article by Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution, his thesis is about the role of Puritan Ethic (PE)  in the American Revolution.  According to his argument, this set of values played a major role, either directly, or just in its effect, in all the main areas that keep a society running:  social, political, economic.

Looking at how he argued this point, I noticed two big methods by which he conveyed his thesis.  First, the layout of the paper clearly formatted his argument.  By breaking the work up into the sections, he can more effectively narrow down his writing and thinking at those portions, thus providing more clarification to back up each idea.  Second, he used a lot of specific examples to argue his point.  He referenced individuals or certain events that backed up his belief that PE had a hand in each step of the Revolution.

His conclusion tied together the majority of his ideas that he explicated throughout his paper.  However, his conclusion did not merely end his argument–by suggesting PE is “not quite dead yet” (42), Morgan allows for readers to consider the lasting effects of PE, and it gives his argument a more solid, permanent, and believable feel.

Before meeting with Dr. Poska, I’d changed my mind on my subject many times.  I shifted from the Medieval time period to considering a subject involving the role of women.  When I arrived at her office, I was still unsure about what I would actually do.  Basically, I rambled off some thoughts and she helped me piece them together.

We talked about some 15th century figures briefly, then  she brought up a 17th century debate, specifically about what the “proper” role of women should be.  This debate is known as the Querelles des Femmes.  Dr. Poska listed a few names of key figures.  The primary sources that make up the debate are mainly literary pieces written either in favor of, or against women.  After talking with Dr. Poska, she provided me with some excerpts from figures like Joseph Swetnam and Rachel Speght.  It seems that I’ll be focusing on the role of women in the debate, using the Rachel Speght piece Dr. Poska gave me as my spring board.

In the case of Kalustian’s “Rhea Papers”, the primary sources play a very important role.  Though one can develop a sense of the tasks Rhea undertook, the primary sources bring a new dynamic to his history.  My personal favorite commentary by the author was his description of Rhea as “The tall, overpowering, imposing Texan” at the bottom of page 260.  Research of secondary or even tertiary sources can only provide information to a certain degree.  The primary sources, such as File No. 1, the “Special Passport”, offer concrete evidence to back up the description.  The reader/researcher becomes more directly involved and almost gets a hands on sense with the subject.  The primary sources, for example the notes from various meetings, make the happenings more realistic; one can continuously spout facts, or provide a scenario and allow documentation to do more of the speaking.

My Source:

My source is a poem written by Rachel Speght.  At the time of its publication, the Querelles des Femme, a debate that argued either the positive or negative qualities of women was still raging.  This particular poem was written in 1617 as a response to a vicious, extremely misogynistic piece written by Joseph Swetnam.  Rachel Speght, was 14 years old when she wrote this poem and proceeded to go on to write another 2 responses to Swetnam.  At this point in the 17th century, there were many literary responses posed, demonstrating both sides.  Because of the mindset of the time, the misogynist texts are seen as the most memorable, as they demonstrated the most excepted set of ideas.  However, there were just as many sources in support of women, providing positive arguments regarding their abilities and rightful places in society.

The conditions were harsh for women, but favorable arguments surfaced, nonetheless.  I will use this source to lead in to discovering the effects of women’s arguments during the Querelles des Femmes.  There are many possible problems with these ideas, especially now, as I’m still not 100% sure as to the direction in which I’m going with this paper.  However, the one I fear the most is that this source will turn out to be a dead end.  Not much is known about the life of rachel Speght, so that could prove difficult when I need to support evidence from her, but I could always shift my focus to incorporate a central idea as evidence instead.  I’m also concerned that I will have difficulty finding complete versions of many of the arguments, treatises, poems, etc, written by women to use as primary sources.

After reading this piece, I would have to say that the most important lesson gathered from it has to do with the formatting for a research paper.

The actual substance of the paper was rather verbose.  He clearly knew his material, however the subject came across as being unreadable, particularly for someone like myself who is not well versed in this area of study.

In Sokal’s favor, I did pick up on a couple good techniques.  First, I appreciated how he outlined those matters that he would be addressing over the course of his paper.  By doing so, it provides a sense of organization right off the bat.  Also, the footnotes provided solid examples of proper formatting, though the number of sources seemed a bit extreme.

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