This book concludes with a discussion of changing conceptions of women and womanhood as well as the general application of such terms. Before approximately 1700, ordinary female Anglo-Americans were likely to be thought of—and to think of themselves—in a series of different roles such as maid, wife, mother, and widow. Even when the titles of the documents identified the supplicants as women, the female petitioners went on to describe themselves in considerable detail by their familial and marital statuses. Such terminology also abounds in seventeenth-century conduct books, such as Hannah Woolley's 1673 guide, The Gentlewoman's Companion. This book also examines novel conceptualizations of gender difference in relation to broader cultural developments that straddled the last decades of the seventeenth century and the first decades of the eighteenth. In particular, it considers how the categorization of males and females was transformed and how definitions of the private sphere came to encompass a covertly political role. It suggests that some women found scope for social activism as an extension of their domestic responsibilities.
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