On the 21stDecember 1769, the teenager Betty Fothergill paused her daily commentary of memorandums and social engagements, to record that:
This day I shall remember from taking the first solemn step towards matrimonie preparation. I may well sigh at the name. These men how come I to be entangled with one of them - tho realy & impartlealy my better Judgment pleads for a single life... so I suppose is the Case with other poor women who are Cagoled by degrees to lose their liberty & then they have nothing to do but quietly submit.
With marriage looming ever closer it appears that Betty Fothergill began to anticipate the loss of certain cherished liberties and freedoms she had enjoyed during her adolescence. Far from criticising her 'youth' as a time of rebelliousness or vanity like so many of her contemporaries, the impending change of marriage brought the apparent virtue of her past state into startling clarity.
This paper sets out to explore this simultaneous process of looking to the future whilst reimagining the significance of the past, at this key moment in the female life cycle. It asks how mental preparations for marriage could facilitate a period of reflection on the lasting legacy of 'female adolescence' as a life stage, and questions why, at its close, young women might choose to describe the potential freedoms, intellectual pursuits, and opportunities for personal growth during adolescence, over all the other personal developments associated with this life stage.
Katie Woodhouse is studying for a PhD at the University of Loughborough.
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