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The Ladies’ Diary and the emergence of the almanac for women, 1704-1753

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Miegon, Anna
The almanac genre was immensely popular throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet published almanacs for women were nonexistent at the turn of the eighteenth century. This dissertation, drawing on archival research undertaken in Great Britain and North America, foregrounds The Ladies’ Diary, a pioneering almanac for women, from its founding in 1704 until 1753, a period when the publication’s character and influence were established. Though scholars increasingly acknowledge the significance of almanacs as cultural catalysts, they have rarely attended to the eighteenth-century almanac for women. My examination contextualizes the genre broadly according to its instructional, creative, and social functions. The Diary was one of the longest running publications of the eighteenth century, allowing for the development of an interactive mode of editorship and of reader agency, and the popularization of subject matter such as the enigma poem. The Diary’s expansion of audience and content enabled women, among other contributors, to mark their presence as almanac readers, writers, and even self-reflexive editors. While most critics of this almanac have discussed its public value as a mathematical magazine, the Diary invites a more multifaceted interpretation. My Introduction presents the scholarly foundation and context surrounding the emergence of the almanac for women that serves as the framework for this thesis. Chapter One attends to seventeenth-century precursors of the Ladies’ Diary, astrological and burlesque almanacs that incorporated discursive female tropes. Early almanacs by women are also examined here. Chapter Two introduces the Diary in relation to public perceptions of the almanac genre, underscoring its originator’s innovative editorial methodology (1704-1713). The chapter also invokes eighteenth-century periodicals for comparison and to demonstrate patterns of influence. Chapter Three focuses on the editorial shifts within the Diary that led to its expanded and then compromised cultural capital (1714-1753). It also explores the complex position of the female almanac editor (1744-1753). Chapter Four studies the construction of the Diary’s audience and traces its actual readers. It then analyzes the readers’ favored genre, the enigma. The dissertation concludes with an overview of the originality and significance of the Diary.
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