The essays included in Mary Hays’s Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries: Alphabetically Arranged (1803) emerge from the authors’ collaboration in producing the first modern edition of Hays’s work in the Chawton House Library Edition (2013, 2014). This book explores Hays’s larger ambitions to lay the foundation for an encyclopaedic work by, for, and about women. The scholars' contributions to this volume engage with some of the multiple problems and possibilities that Female Biography presented. Drawing on this effort, individual scholars examine Hays’s attempts to correct existing masculinist constructs which framed the ‘universe of knowledge’ then and persist in our time. Hays perceived that these had the cumulative effect of rendering women invisible. She responded to such absence by providing examples of the extent of female worth across Western society. Other contributions focus specifically on the subjects of Hays’s entries, looking at how she used source material and laid the groundwork for future biographical studies of women’s lives.
Both Female Biography and Hays herself have continually presented difficulties in categorization: not quite Enlightenment, not quite Victorian either. This book recontextualises her work, demonstrating the radicalism and originality of her feminism, even in its post-Wollstonecraftian phase, as well as the longevity of her influence. As such, it will be of interest to those conducting research into Hays, her subjects, and the evolution of life-writing by women.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Women’s Writing.
Introduction Mary Spongberg and Gina Luria Walker
1. "I Sought & Made to Myself an Extraordinary Destiny" Gina Luria Walker
2. The Trial(s) of Queen Caroline and Hays’s Memoirs of Queens, Illustrious and Celebrated Mary Spongberg
3. The Turbulent Seas of Cultural Sisterhood: French Connections in Mary Hays’s Female Biography (1803) Séverine Genieys-Kirk
4. Lost in Translation: Mary Hays Reads Heloise Sally A. Livingston
5. The Spanish Monarchy in Mary Hays’s Biographical Works Begoña Lasa Álvarez
6. Mary Hays’s Female Biography: Feminist Remix Sarah Peterson Pittock
7. Rioting in Intellectual Luxury: The Innovations and Influence of Mary Hays’s "Catherine Macaulay Graham" Shane Greentree
8. "The Very Worst Woman I Ever Heard of": Rosina Bulwer Lytton and Biography as Vindication Marie Mulvey-Roberts
9. "Women’s Writing on Women’s Writing": Mayy Ziyada’s Literary Biographies as Egyptian Feminist History Hala Kamal