Mrs. Fielding: The Single Woman as the Incarnation of the Ideal Domestic Women
Eighteenth-century female writers realized that single women were scorned and viewed with contempt. They tried to modify the negative stereotypes, found mainly in the work of male authors, by offering more attractive portraits of single, independent women. Elizabeth Hamilton dignified the figure of the “old maid” by creating the characters of Martha Goodwin, Maria Fielding and Mrs. Mason. The aim of this article is to analyse the similarities between Hamilton herself and Mrs. Fielding in Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800), as well as comment on how Hamilton used her fictional counterpart to explore her own ideas on women’s education, marriage or spinsterhood. With a character like Mrs. Fielding, Hamilton not only created a positive role for old maids like herself but showed her readers that it was possible for an unmarried woman to have a varied, interesting, useful and fulfilled life.
Keywords: Elizabeth Hamilton; single woman; education; marriage; benevolence
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