She Hath Been Reading

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-9

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Preface

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pp. ix-xvi

In September 1894, Elizabeth Armstrong organized a group of thirty women in the village of Avon, Illinois, to gather weekly and read Shakespeare in her home. Inspired by reading The Merchant of Venice, the group called itself the “Portia Club” and chose as its goals “mutual improvement and self-reinforcement” of members and “promotion of social...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xix

Many people and institutions made this project possible. Funding for research was provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Historical Society of Southern California. At the University of Minnesota, a sabbatical and sabbatical supplement, a McKnight Research...

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Introduction: Origins

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pp. 1-30

In the late nineteenth century, more than five hundred Shakespeare clubs, composed mainly of women, formed across America to read Shakespeare. From Pasadena, California, to the seaside town of Camden, Maine; from the isolated farm town of Ottumwa, Iowa, to the mining village of Cripple Creek, Colorado; from Swanton,...

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Chapter 1. Reading

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pp. 31-60

At its heart, this is a book about women reading—white women and black women; mothers and daughters; with men and with other women; in urban and rural locales; amid housework, child care, jobs, and other time commitments. And it is about women reading something specific: Shakespeare. A remarkable cache...

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Chapter 2. The Home

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pp. 61-78

A late nineteenth-century account of the Shakespeare Class of Peoria, Illinois, includes the following anecdote about an amateur performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Mrs. C. E. Nixon was playing the part of the ‘fat knight’ and had her own interpretation of the scene. She cut out the bottom of her laundry...

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Chapter 3. The Outpost

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pp. 79-94

“In a log-cabin in the woods of Southern Minnesota, on cold stormy nights in winter, after the ranch work is done,” a group called the Snow Blockade Club met in the late 1880s to read Shakespeare in Lanesboro, a town of just over 1,000 people. Less than ten miles from the Canadian border, in Swanton, Vermont...

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Chapter 4. Shakespeare and Black Women’s Clubs

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pp. 95-116

In 1899, the front page of the Topeka, Kansas, black newspaper the Plaindealer reported on the tenth anniversary of a women’s literary group called the Ladies’ Coterie. Made up of eleven black women, including founding members the artist Fanny Clinkscale and prominent society woman Mrs. Robert Buckner, the...

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Conclusion

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pp. 117-122

The women whose stories of reading Shakespeare I have related in this book were, for the most part, not well known, and their names have long since disappeared from the historical record, if they ever had a place there to begin with. Yet their sheer number means that Shakespeare had a substantial impact on the lives of...

Appendix: Shakespeare Clubs in America

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pp. 123-139

Notes

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pp. 141-200

Bibliography

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pp. 201-222

Index

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pp. 223-235