Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Hilda L. Smith

Hilda L. SmithEdit

Dr. Hilda L. Smith, was born 1941 in Springfield, USA. Smith is a Professor and scholar focused on the study of Women in the 17th and 18th Centuries. She contributed to the studies of feminist writing, by authoring several notable works including, ‘Feminism in Seventeenth-Century England’ and ‘All Men and Both Sexes: Gender, Politics, and the False Universal in England, 1640-1832’.

BiographyEdit

Dr. Hilda L. Smith was born in 1941 in Springfield. She came from a working-class family and was the first in her family to venture into the intellectual world of University education. Smith attended the University of Chicago in 1975, where she earned her PhD. This was where her passion for Early Modern British History and European Women’s History began. She then went on to teach at the University of Maryland before moving on to the University of Cincinnati in 1987. Whilst having a career in academia, Smith continued to research her area of interest: gendered history, particularly focusing on women in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. During her period of research, Smith published many books based on her findings and subsequent theories about women in that particular time period. “Her work is especially concerned with the ways in which reason has come to be associated with men rather than women, both in traditional and feminist scholarship” (University of Cincinnati). Smith has since retired from the University of Cincinnati, and is a professor of emerita, but continues to research and explore women’s history.

WorksEdit

Smith has written many works (a list is included below). One of her most well-known works is, ‘All Men and Both Sexes: Gender, Politics, and the False Universal in England, 1640-1832’ (2002), which explores how difficult it was for women to align with the gendered political realm and why they were marginalised.

“In this important book Hilda Smith explains how women were marginalized long before they were confined to a separate sphere. We see precisely how women disappeared from the political discourse and why it proved so difficult for them to win recognition even among radical reformers. So long as the male experience was equated with citizenship and adulthood, women had only limited and specialized roles to perform in public.” (Diane Willen, Georgia State University).

Along a similar thread is, ‘Women Writers and the Early Modern British Political Tradition’ (1998), which is a collection of essays that explore the political writings of women such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Christine de Pizan. These essays expose women’s writing being ignored by historians as serious literature.

‘Challenging Orthodoxies: The Social and Cultural Worlds of Early Modern Women: essays presented to Hilda L. Smith’ (2014), is another collection of essays that investigate the concerns that women had within their social sphere and how they tried to push their own opinions onto a male-dominated society.

One of Smith’s latest works is, ‘Generations of Women Historians: Within and Beyond the Academy’ (2018), which is a collection that focuses on the intellectual world of women historians, how women studied, and why they were excluded from participating in careers as historians by their male peers.

List of Works:Edit

  • ‘Feminism in Seventeenth-Century England’. 1975.
  • ‘Reason’s Disciples: Seventeenth-Century English Feminists’. 1982.
  • ‘Women and the Literature of the Seventeenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography Based on Wing’s Short-title Catalogue’. 1990.
  • ‘Women Writers and the Early Modern British Political Tradition’. 1998.
  • ‘Women’s Social and Political Thought: An Anthology’. 2000.
  • ‘All Men and Both Sexes: Gender, Politics, and the False Universal in England, 1640-1832’. 2002.
  • ‘Women’s Political Writings, 1610-1725 Vol 1’. 2007.
  • ‘Challenging Orthodoxies: The Social and Cultural Worlds of Early Modern Women: essays presented to Hilda L. Smith’. 2014
  • ‘Generations of Women Historians: Within and Beyond the Academy’. 2018.

ReputationEdit

During Hilda L. Smith’s career, she wrote many works based on her investigations into the history of women in Europe and Britain during the 17th and 18th Centuries and has become well known as a feminist writer. Her writings have inspired women and men to further analyse the biases around gender in history.

For example, in her book, ‘All Men and Both Sexes: Gender, Politics, and the False Universal in England, 1640-1832’ (2002), Smith explores the universal terms around ‘man’ or ‘human’ and whether that excluded ‘women’ in the construction of the society during those years. Her findings led to the conclusion that due to this exclusion, women were then separated as a ‘dependent’ group from men. Smith describes how this issue forced women into having to fight for suffrage, to be included into the group that they for so long had been excluded: citizenship. Smith also investigates the impact that the long-term omission of women has had on the role-modelling of history and how that has influenced modern-day academics. “I looked at the pictures of everyone presenting, and they were all men. And it really struck me how much men were honoured and dominated academia more than women.” (Hilda L. Smith, Missouri State Blog). Smith uses Margaret Cavendish as an example of how modern historians and feminists would disregard women who wrote literature outside the realm of academia. Thus, exposing the grooming that took place in society to discredit others, especially women, who may not have had the appropriate social qualities compared to that of a male citizen.

Smith herself is a representation of how a woman can go from an uneducated background to one that is highly esteemed in academia. Therefore, proving how needless the traditions were that forced women into subservient roles. Dr Kathleen Kennedy on Missouri State Blog stated about Smith, that “She’s a good role model for a number of our students who may not initially envision themselves going on to become one of the best historians in their field. She was someone who was able to do that as a first-generation college student.”

ReferencesEdit

  • Blog, www.blogs.missouristate.edu
  • Faculty of the University of Cincinnati, www.ucdirectory.uc.edu
  • Penn State University Press, www.psupress.org
  • Springer Link, www.link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4020-5895-0_6
  • WorldCat Identities, www.worldcat.org

Further ReadingEdit