Consideration of what women read, what was considered appropriate reading, and women's literacy generally, might include the following sources [for English Literatures only].
Hint: Keyword search for (American reading women) and (19 century)
Mass Observation Archives, U.K. -- "The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is a charitable trust in the care of the University of Sussex. It is housed at The Keep as part of the University's Special Collections."
Life-writing as a form of women's autobiography and biography is an important genre.
Definition from WordPress --
Life-writing is form of autobiographical writing. According to Patti Millar, life-writing is “non-fiction writing on subjects of personal experience and observation; it includes autobiography, biography, memoir, memoirs, personal essay, and travel and sojourn writing.” It is very personal writing about your life or another person’s life. It is non-fictional writing which is done on the basis of observation and personal experience. When we do life-writing, we are using our memory and using our powers to describe and tell a story in a certain manner which shows our creativity. There are different types of life-writing such as personal essays, interviews, testimony, diary, letters, blogging, emailing, autobiography, biography, journal writing, memoirs and etc. It is made up of different texts which includes fictional and non-fictional which are connected by a common theme: “self” or “life.” Almost everything is life-writing since it is combination of different genre into one. Most of all, life-writing has proved to be such powerful tool since it has ability to increase the development and growth of a person.
Note: The preface to Lutz's book provides a wonderful perspective on the personal and historical value of objects. Also highly recommended are Chapter 1 "Tiny Books" and Chapter 5 "Fugitive Letters."
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