At the risk of giving the exaggerated but not completely inaccurate impression that I’m obsessed with the Ephemerides, here’s another post about it. You see, I’ve just finished reading Hartlib’s notebook from cover to cover (well, from screen to screen) in the process of completing and cleaning all our reception data from this source. So it’s on my mind. While my first post explored what makes Hartlib’s notes so tweetable, this one is about the women he mentions. Most of them turn out not to have been authors or actively involved in Hartlib’s intellectual network, but each contributed indirectly to his growing pool of knowledge. Since we’re not collecting and analysing receptions of non-authorial women in our database, this is a good opportunity to survey the forms and contexts in which women are most often mentioned in Hartlib’s notes.
In his Ephemerides notebook, Hartlib frequently refers to women as sources of particular information, including medical receipts, the success of (e.g. medical and commercial) experiments, and, less often, as the means of accessing manuscript writings by men. But very rarely does he mention women as authors or directly cite them as authorities. With the notable exception of Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh, who is named about 40 times as the direct source of information, most women are mentioned in relation to information and opinions that have been relayed to Hartlib by various male members of his network, whom he usually cites by name. The many mediated layers through which information reached Hartlib, and how this process contributed to the reputations of participants of both genders, could make a fascinating study in its own right. But for RECIRC we’re interested in references to women who were writers and to their works. Ephemerides rarely presents women in these terms.
Most often Hartlib refers to women in relation to better known men who were in his network and/or public figures as doctors, alchemists, clergymen, academics, landowners, soldiers, MPs, courtiers, and rulers. I’ve found more than 50 different women referred to by relationship – which confirms my initial suspicion that most often women would be identified in the Hartlib Papers as wives, widows, mothers, daughters, sisters – and even ‘whores’, it so happens – rather than by name or by name alone. Identifying women in these ways indicates that they did not have sufficiently established reputations as individuals to stand on their own names and fame. But it also shows that interpersonal relationships were important to Hartlib; he needed to record them in order to trace information back to its ultimate sources – just as we need full citations in footnotes. His sources were living people, who moved around and could be harder to track down than interlibrary loans. Noting things like relationships and cities of residence would help Hartlib make contact in future.
Hartlib mentions in the Ephemerides several women who, whether authors or not, were highly skilled in other ways. For example, ‘Dr Kufflers wife’ (Hartlib Papers 29/5/88A) was Catharina, née Drebbel, who helped her husband Johannes Solbertus Kuffeler with his chemistry and inventions. Hartlib was particularly interested in ‘chymistry’ and alchemy. He records that ‘The 30. of Ianuary 1650. Mr Hinshaw of Kensington was at my House […] His Father is dead a great chymist, and so is his Mother who is yet alive. Hee keepes there a Laboratorie and is not shye to acknowledge to have the Althahest’ (28/1/43B). Similarly, ‘Mris Ogleby Major Morgans Aunt came to vs the 3. of August  giving the first visit. A rare Chymical Gentlewoman she is, and hath some of Ripley’s MS’ (29/5/42B). ‘There is a woman at Bristol […] who is of great vnderstanding and chymical skil for extracting of gold silver. etc. out of inferior Mettals, by which she hath gotten a great estate’ (29/4/22B). Mris Everits, ‘A Capitain’s Wife’, was another ‘Chymical Astrological Medical-Woman’ and ‘An acquaintance of Schönbubius’ (28/1/13A). Another medical woman was ‘Mris Laramor an excellent woman for surgery, the curing of the Mother and all other women-diseases. Shee hase done most wonderful cures’ (30/4/87B), while Mris Hunt was ‘an Occulist Woman who hath performed wonderful cures vpon herself and others but would not part with the secret’ (29/5/43A).
In the realm of textile production, Mr Castile’s daughter raised silkworms and made men’s stockings from the silk they produced (29/4/21B) and Mris Wilkinson’s daughters made gloves out of spider-silk (possibly in Bermuda; 28/2/35B). A daughter of inventor Nicholas Doughty is recorded as able to operate her father’s proto-industrial spinning wheel although she has only one arm – thus demonstrating its suitability to provide work for the poor, the disabled, and children (28/1/77B-78A) (and unintentionally paving the way for centuries of misery). By contrast, Unmussig’s already old-fashioned mother asserted that spinning is best performed with hands, not instruments (31/22/29A).
Some of our RECIRC authors are praised for accomplishments unconnected to their writings. The educationalist Bathsua Makin is mentioned in connection with medical receipts and cures, some of which she received from ‘the old Lady’ Ralegh (27/1/48A). Lady Ranelagh, Dorothy Moore, the Countess of Kent, and the Countess of Bristol were also involved in devising, testing, and circulating medical receipts, most notably ‘Lady Kent’s Powder’ which is mentioned several times. On another note, Mary and John Evelyn are praised for their excellent singing voices, ‘the like not know’n for man and wife together’ (29/5/56B).
Other women are mentioned for their reputed learning. ‘The 11. of Iulj  Mr Benlow’s coming to my house […] brought mee also acquainted with his Niece that is brought vp in all manner of knowledge and languages’ (29/4/20B). While Hartlib notes disparagingly that this young woman ‘could not bee draw’n from Popery’, he was emphatically less impressed by an unnamed Englishwoman who failed to live up to her reputation: ‘Mris [blank] Not a good Linguist in Latin and Greek. [margin:] Faeminae doctae Angliae’ (30/4/20A).
Female rulers are frequently mentioned in Ephemerides in relation to history, politics, news, gossip, and polemics. Topping the list is Elizabeth Tudor, followed by Henrietta Maria and Christina of Sweden. Other royal women to appear are Mary Queen of Scots; Mary Stuart (Princess Royal and Princess of Orange); the Queen of Poland, Marie Louise Gonzaga; Christina of Sweden’s mother, Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, and aunt, Catherine of Brandenburg. Catherine was the consort of Bethlen Gábor, Prince of Transylvania; she was elected his successor as Prince but abdicated a year after his death. Hartlib compared the careers of Christina and her aunt, with a passing reference to her mother:
‘The Parallel between christina and Catherina of Gabors Lady hold’s exactly as to the resignation of her government lewdnes etc. mariage – revolt poverty and misery. etc Id. She (or the Mother of Christina) told herself to Schaum that her daughter longed to see the divel that she might cause him to bee pourtrayed in it’s true shape etc. mocking at the reality of Spirits. Shee is said to play at Tennis’ (29/5/26B-27A).
Revolt, poverty, misery, devils, and tennis are rare in Ephemerides. But perhaps even rarer are references to female authors as such. I will leave you with two examples. In 1650 Unmussig reported to Hartlib that ‘The French Queen’s Midwifes Book written in french but translated also into Latin is an excellent one but especially for the Mineral Medecin of Iron for opening of Women’s courses and many other diseases’ (28/1/69A). This is a reception of the famous midwife and medical writer Louise Boursier (and of her patron, Catherine de Medici). At the other end of the fame spectrum stands ‘Mris Fennick a Gentlewoman Author Libri of the promises hase written Commentary of doctrines from Genesis to the end of the Revelation. Mr Daulmans keeping. NB.’ (29/2/35B). This is the only known reference to Fennick and her works.
While non-authors will always outnumber authors, even a source as unlikely as Hartlib’s Ephemerides demonstrates there are still more early modern women writers – as well as scientists, textile workers, and medical women (etc!) – to be discovered.