During the second half of the eighteenth century, the social role of educated
women and the nature of domesticity were the focus of widespread debate in Britain. The emergence of an identifiably feminist voice in that debate is the subject of Harriet Guest's new study, which explores how small changes in the meaning of patriotism and the relations between public and private categories permitted educated British women to imagine themselves as political subjects.
Small Change considers the celebration of learned women as tokens of national progress in the context of a commercial culture that complicates notions of gender difference. Guest offers a fascinating account of the women of the bluestocking circle, focusing in particular on Elizabeth Carter, hailed as the paradigmatic learned and domestic woman. She discusses the importance of the American war to the changing relation between patriotism and gender in the 1770s and 1780s, and she casts new light on Mary Wollstonecraft's writing of the 1790s, considering it in relation to the anti-feminine discourse of Hannah More, and the utopian feminism of Mary Hays.