This wonderful site modestly bills itself simply as “Translations of women’s writing before 1700,” but this paragraph gives a fuller picture:

Below are links that will take you to passages from over 125 women writers. The entries are on women who produced a substantial amount of work before 1700, some or all of which has been translated into modern English. Each entry will tell you about the print sources from which the translated passages are taken; it will also tell you of useful secondary sources and Internet sites, when those are available.

They really do scour both print and the internet; I checked one of my favorite unknown women writers, Olympia Morata, and not only do they have her, their first link is to my post on her! So I heartily endorse this site (which is maintained by Dorothy Disse), and I look forward to discovering many writers previously unknown to me. (Via wood s lot [07.24.2007].)


  1. I’m wondering why she put the cutoff point at 1700. I looked for Ho Xuan Huong, but of course she was born in 1772. Too many women writers after 1700?

  2. Yeah, too many is my guess.

  3. marie-lucie says

    Perhaps the point is not so much that there are “too many” after 1700, but that from that time on they are much better documented. How many people are acquainted with the first entrant, a Sumerian high priestess (identified as “high priest” in the text), or with medieval Chinese Buddhist nun-poets?
    Overall the site is great, and very serious about its documentation. It is also international. It is interesting to compare the various origins or circumstances of the women mentioned, at different periods. Starting with Sumer, the list proceeds chronologically, but some places and periods are more productive than others, so for instance, a string of German nuns is followed by a string of Chinese or Japanese court ladies, then by Venitian courtesans, with here and there a sprinkling of Arab or Indian princesses, etc. (I mean this as an example, not as an exact description). Greek women are fairly well represented in antiquity, then practically disappear for centuries.
    It is obvious that having male relatives in high positions or at court was a tremendous advantage, as gifted girls could often listen in or participate in the lessons that were being given to their brothers. Life as a member of a religious order also sometimes had its advantages, whether in Europe (and later Mexico) or in Asia. But most of the women in question were stuck in forced marriages, often at a very early age. There were a few that I had heard of, but most of them were totally new to me.
    My only complaint about the site is the number of errors in the French citations: all accents are missing, and there are quite a few grammatical mistakes, for instance “Madames [sic] Sevigne and La Fayette” instead of “Madame de Sévigné and Madame de la Fayette” (“Mesdames de Sévigné et de la Fayette” could have been used also in a French sentence, but I would have found it less appropriate – suggesting that the two women had arrived together at a function, for instance, or written something together). I don’t feel qualified to comment on names or words from other languages, especially the older ones. However, overall the site is well worth visiting. Thank you, Mr. Hat!

  4. Alas, the site gave up the ghost a decade ago; this is the last archived version. I can find no information on Disse herself.

Speak Your Mind