The Gentleman's Daughter

Women's Lives in Georgian England
Vickery, Amanda
Date published: 
January 1999

Eighteenth-century women have long been presented as the heroines of traditional biographies, or as the faceless victims of vast historical processes, but rarely have they been deemed worthy of rigorous historical enquiry. To date, there are no published studies of non-literary or non-aristocratic circles of eighteenth-century women. The Gentleman's Daughter fills this gap with an elegant, evocative and controversial account of the lives of genteel women - the daughters of merchants, the wives of lawyers and the sisters of gentlemen. The results are striking and unexpected.

Based on a study of the letters, diaries and account books of over one hundred women from commercial, professional and gentry families, mainly in provincial England, The Gentleman's Daughter challenges the currently influential view that the period witnessed a new division of the everyday worlds of privileged men and women into the separate spheres of home and work. Amanda Vickery invokes the women's own accounts of their lives to argue that in the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the scope of female experience did not diminish - in fact, quite the reverse.

This lively, often humorous study offers an unprecedented insight into the intimate and everyday lives of genteel women and will transform our understanding of the position of women in this period.