Authorizing
Themselves

500 Years of Women Authors
burgundy wallpaper 1.jpg
Women Authors_1080x1080_IG.jpg
Welcome

to
500 Years of Women Authors, Authorizing Themselves, an exhibit on display at the Houghton Library for Rare Books and Manuscripts at Harvard University from December 13, 2021 - March 11, 2022.

The curators are pleased to bring you this digital version of "500 Years of Women." Here, you can browse the exhibit virtually and learn about additional historic women writers not featured in the physical exhibit from our "Meet More Women Authors" section (coming soon).


 
Click the arrow on the right to get started. 
 
 
Maria Sidney signature flyleaf_edited
Wroth cipher_edited
Moneylender's wife_edited
00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20191011100450000_COVER

A Code of Her Own

The writers whose works are spread before you in this case hid themselves in plain sight. Codes, ciphers, and symbols are their literary camouflage. Lady Mary Wroth’s cryptic monogram contains ten letters alluding to a real illicit love affair which she wove her literary romance. Her aunt, Mary Sidney Herbert, annotated an Italian-English dictionary with two lines from a psalm. A translation of the psalms would later become a pillar of her literary identity. Calligrapher Esther Inglis experimented with poetic meanings and aesthetics through hand-drawn images and dozens of different fonts, all of which she wrote out by hand.

Experimental 
Eves

Poetry, popular science, travel literature, novels, high fantasy, juvenilia, and periodicals. Handwriting, engravings, pencil sketches, watercolors, and first-edition print. Over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women made themselves into best-selling authors across these genres and media. Below, you’ll find the early efforts of five authors, all famous in their own times, to sound out their literary voices and test-drive new projects. From Charlotte Brontë’s story of a girl’s escape from boarding school to the manuscript “quarry” for George Eliot’s Middlemarch, these pages preserve examples of imaginative experiments that made women writers into intellectual authorities. Some of the results have been forgotten.

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

 
theyellowwallpaper-background.jpg

Brave New Women

As the 19th century became the 20th, women’s work of self-authorization changed in England and America. In the midst of furious battles for suffrage and higher education, women gained seats at the table. They began to enter the literary scene as critical authorities in the fields of letters, politics, education, and civil rights. Seizing the opportunity presented by this disruptive moment, women of color and queer women began to write openly about their experiences in the face of violent opposition, amplifying their own voices and insisting on recognition by the mainstream.

CL 11 Millay_edited

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Cover, A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf

PXL_20211029_183203463

Zora Neale Hurston

riot1_edited

Gwendolyn Brooks

Dickinson seal1

Emily Dickinson

 

Meet
     the
        Curators.

1616886502184.jpg
V.M. Braganza
LEAD CURATOR
and CURATOR OF "A CODE OF HER OWN"
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Twitter Icon

V.M. Braganza is a public-facing intellectual and a PhD candidate in English at Harvard. She writes for SmithsonianLithubMental Floss, and the LA Review of Books, and her academic work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals and volumes, including the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Women's Writing in English. She is a 2022 Harvard Horizons Scholar and has curated previously for the Library of Congress. Her dissertation (and first book) is about the literary history of cryptography in Renaissance England. Additionally, she is a JD candidate at Columbia Law School where she specializes in constitutional law. She designed this website.

Joani Etskovitz
CURATOR OF "EXPERIMENTAL EVES"
  • White Twitter Icon

Joani Etskovitz is a PhD candidate in English literature at Harvard University, researching women’s writing, children’s literature, and the novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A Beinecke and a Marshall Scholar, she holds two masters degrees from the University of Oxford. Joani has written for Public Books and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She has also curated exhibits and developed public programming for the Library of Congress Young Readers Center, the Penn Museum, the Cotsen Children’s Library, and the Bodleian Library.

JE headshot 2.jpeg
988FFABE-BFA2-429B-90E1-ECB65C7FD54D_1_201_a.jpeg
Katherine Horgan
CURATOR OF "BRAVE NEW WOMEN"
  • White Twitter Icon

Katherine Horgan is a PhD candidate in English literature at Harvard University, with a focus Classical Reception in Renaissance, Modern, and Women’s literature. She holds a Master’s degree in English, a B.A. in English and Classics, and B. Mus from McGill University, where she studied Early Modern literature with Maggie Kilgour. Katherine has written program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Center, has published literary criticism in the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, and is the current Editor in Chief of Literary Papers: A Journal of the Harvard English Department.

Meet More Women Authors

Woman of the Week
Agatha Christie

Click the image to learn more. 

young-agatha-christie-1.jpg
Montgomery, LM

L.M. Montgomery

Video Tour of the Exhibit

Join the curators on a virtual tour of the physical exhibit at Houghton Library.

COMING
SOON