Autobiographies, Diaries, and Journals by Women Summary


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Women began recording their lives as far back as the fourteenth century. Margery Kempe is credited with being the first female autobiographer writing in English. In the 1600’s, the Puritan promotion of daily self-scrutiny prompted women to record every aspect of their lives. Many Quaker, Baptist, and Methodist women recorded their lives from the 1740’s to the nineteenth century. This genre of the spiritual narrative, however, was not the sole focus of women’s lived experience. During the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, women’s personal writings multiplied, many detailing lives of poverty, servitude, and survival. During the nineteenth century, although events in women’s lives tended to be reproduced in novels, personal narratives developed in many forms, often providing aspects of social reform and artistic development.