Nonconformist and Dissenting Women's Studies, 1650-1850

Mary Steele (1753-1813), the "Sylvia" of the Steele Circle of Broughton, Hampshire, c. 1780; she was a close friend of the poet Mary Scott and niece of the hymn writer Anne Steele ("Theodosia'"). 

Anne Dutton (1692-1765), Baptist writer of religious works, hymns, and letters, and the most prolific woman writer of the 18th century.

Mary Scott (1751-93) [later Taylor], mother of Mary Ann and John Edward Taylor, from a miniature in Isabella Scott's  Family Biography (1908), p. 206.

This is an on-going site that builds upon my work as general editor of the eight volumes of Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), of which I was volume editor for volumes 3-8 (Julia B. Griffin was the volume editor for volumes 1 and 2 on Anne Steele).  A host of clever, dedicated, and devout nonconformist women left their mark on literary and religious history in England (and to a degree, America) between the mid-seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. These women put a premium on personal faith, biblical doctrine, and a wide range of spiritual experience and religious affections (the “sacred”) that sometimes easily assimilated into and at other times sharply conflicted with secular culture, human reason, and mundane life (the “profane”). Also called dissenters, these women belonged to various denominations/sects that had separated from the Church of England into several denominations – Baptists (Particular and General), Independents, Presbyterians, and Quakersand by the late 18th century the Unitarians and Methodists

Included on this site are biographical summaries of 58 women along with examples of their hymns, poetry, letters, diaries, travel diaries, conversion narratives and spiritual autobiography, prose meditations and reflections, informal and formal religious discourse, published letters, moral and didactic literature, published tracts, as well as some biographical writings on other women. Also on this site is the first collection of the imprint histories of 18th-century nonconformist and dissenting women printers and booksellers, as well as the complete correspondence among members of the Phillip Doddridge family recently acquired by Trinity College, Cambridge and some other letters associated with the Doddridges. Links can also be found to my site on the life, writings, and correspondence of Mary Hays, to my site on Dissenting Studies, 1650-1850, and to the New Historia. For more on women and religious dissent, see the Introduction.

It is my desire that the materials on this site serve as a starting point for reading, research, and further inquiries into the lives and writings of nonconformist and dissenting women of the long 18th century and the first half of the 19th. They can be freely accessed by students, scholars, and the general public and I hope they will be widely disseminated, both in private and public spaces, especially university classrooms, as an ever-expanding online anthology of nonconformist and dissenting women writers. 

For more on the Editor, click here