"The Housewife" and "Sinful Sally": Natural and Unnatural Women in Conservative Poetry of the 1790s

White, Steven M. (2013) "The Housewife" and "Sinful Sally": Natural and Unnatural Women in Conservative Poetry of the 1790s. In: British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 42nd Annual Conference, University of Oxford, UK.

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This paper argues that representations of women were central to counter-revolutionary poet's and propagandist's attempts to defend the existing social structure in Britain in the years that followed the French Revolution. I divide such depictions into two categories: the 'natural' and the 'unnatural' woman. As an example of a so-called natural woman I discuss Elizabeth Moody's 'The Housewife', arguing that in the poem she links women's cloistered role in private and domestic space to their 'natural', biological identity, particularly by suggesting a subliminal link between domestic actions and maternity. I further argue that the poem shows the mother as naturally and unconsciously transmitting conservative values to her children. As an example of an 'unnatural' woman I discuss Hannah More's 'Sinful Sally', a woman who defies traditional gender roles and restrictions, rejecting the private and domestic life and instead manifesting sexual desire, social ambition and a need to be publicly visible. I argue that to emphasise the transgressive, sinful nature of such behaviour More physically dehumanises and deforms Sally. I suggest that the depictions of women employed by Moody and More linked natural physical identity with the hierarchies and constraints of society, and were ways of scaring both men and women away from behaviours that could threaten the social and political status quo.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2014 10:12
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:16
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/315888

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