Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Hannah More (1745-1833)

It is humbling to reflect, that in those countries in which fondness for the mere persons of women is carried to the highest excess, they are slaves; and that their moral and intellectual degradation increases in direct proportion to the adoration which is paid to their mere external charms.

Hannah More
Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799)

Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities in the Honors College at Baylor University, in his anthology, A Burning and a Shining Light: English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, devotes a chapter to Hannah More, describing her as a woman who would have been “remarkable in any century” and “an outstanding woman of her time.” She was both a shrewd culture critic and a Christian feminist, who being more interested in truth than applause, challenged and continues to challenge the political correctness of society.

She was one of the most prolific female writers prior to the Victorian era, with her collected works filling eleven volumes. Her poetry, plays, letters, essays, and tracts focus on women’s education, evangelicalism, abolition, and the poor. She was occupied with promoting philanthropy, establishing charity schools, and providing affordable reading materials for the lower classes in the form of Cheap Repository Tracts.

Although her literary merits were disparaged later in the twentieth century, recent criticism has begun to re-evaluate her influence in religious writing, education, the role of women, abolition, and practical philanthropy. The Armstrong Browning Library owns eleven items authored by Hannah More, including several of the original Cheap Repository Tracts. Hannah More’s Poems can be viewed at the Baylor University 19th Century Women Poets Collection.

Melinda Creech

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