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Separated by Their SexWomen in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World$
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Mary Beth Norton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449499

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449499.001.0001

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Consolidating the Feminine Private

Consolidating the Feminine Private

(p.144) Chapter 5 Consolidating the Feminine Private
Separated by Their Sex

Mary Beth Norton

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how the idea of the feminine private was consolidated in the first half of the eighteenth century on both sides of the Anglo-American Atlantic. Benjamin Franklin made his first foray into publishing in an April 1722 issue of the New-England Courant in the guise of Silence Dogood, the widow of a rural clergyman. When Franklin decided to become an older, single woman canvassing others' failings, he adopted a pose of rhetorical femininity. Subsequent colonial writers were to make a similar choice. Whether or not those authors were in fact female, the topics and contents of their essays reveal much about the developing notion of the feminine private. This chapter considers how Anglo-American men defined a feminized private sphere and how women developed its meaning. It also discusses tea drinking as a practice among colonial women and how women created an important component of the developing feminine private sphere, a virtual space for themselves that was more important than the actual spaces they could occasionally craft in their houses or around tea tables.

Keywords:   private sphere, Benjamin Franklin, New-England Courant, rhetorical femininity, men, women, tea drinking, houses, tea tables

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