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

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face

1864 Photograph by Cameron adorns the poster for the latest Armstrong Browning Library exhibit
This poster introducing a new exhibit at the Armstrong Browning Library, Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face, contains words from a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning between 1842-44, discovered in a small pocket notebook, and only recently published in 2006. This excerpt from a fragment of the poem, “My sisters! Daughters of this fatherland” expresses the challenges Barrett Browning faced as she sought to assert her voice in a predominately male tradition of public poetry in the 1840s.

The photograph was taken in 1864 by Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the first women photographers. She was a remarkable woman, growing up in Ceylon, moving to England after her marriage, and living on the Isle of Wight, next door to Tennyson. She began taking photos at the age of forty-eight. Her photographs have a soft, ethereal feeling to them and an amazingly contemporary appeal. Cameron, who also wrote an autobiography, translated German, and published poems and fiction, is one of the women featured in the exhibit.

The exhibit in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library features texts and images of twenty-three nineteenth century women. These women were mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, friends, poets, novelists, tract writers, storytellers, hymn writers, advocates for social reform, philanthropists, and more. So many fascinating things were discovered about these amazing women during my research that we wanted to share their voices and faces with a wider audience through this blog.

Many of the items in the exhibit are taken from the Armstrong Browning Library’s large Nineteenth Century Women Poets Collection. This collection can be viewed at

It is our sincere hope that, through the texts and images exhibited in this display and shared through this blog, we at the Armstrong Browning Library might be able to honor Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s wish by giving nineteenth century women writers a voice and a face.

Enjoy the slideshow below for a preview of the women featured in this exhibit.