This unique cross-cultural account highlights the accomplishments of women writers and educated women, and provides beautiful reproductions of renowned artworks that illustrate their achievements and the worlds they inhabited, thereby also tracing the social functions of the portraits of reading women as well as the types of books they read.
The book further explores the changing circumstances of women’s access to literature and education throughout the centuries in different cultures and societies. Chronologically arranged, the volume opens in ancient times, exploring civilizations as diverse as Mesopotamia, Greece and China. It travels to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe, to modern England and America. Along the way readers are treated to profiles of Ban Zhao, Murasaki Shikibu, Christine de Pisan, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among many others.
Artworks featuring reading women range from Pompeii frescoes to important works by artists through the centuries, including Hans Holbein, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Roy Lichtenstein, Balthus and Gerhard Richter.
The result is a beautifully illustrated cultural history of women reading, as fascinating and inspiring as the accomplishments it honors.