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)
Managing Literacy, Mothering America by Sarah Robbins
Publication Date: 2004-11-21
Reading and Writing Ourselves into Being by Claire White Putala
Publication Date: 2004-03-01
Forbidden Fruit by Christiane Inmann
Publication Date: 2009-09-20
Diaries on a Grand Scale
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."
Collection of letters by English women of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Includes Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Margaret Fuller and some Jane Austen, among others. Full text available at HathiTrust.
Life-writing as a form of women's autobiography and biography is an important genre.
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.
Essays on Life Writing by Marlene Kadar (Editor)
Publication Date: 1992-05-21
British Women's Life Writing, 1760-1840 by Amy Culley
Center for Material Culture Studies, University of Delaware
Books About Women's Archives & Material Culture
The Brontë Cabinet by Deborah Lutz
Publication Date: 2015-05-11
In this unique and lovingly detailed biography of a literary family that has enthralled readers for nearly two centuries, Victorian literature scholar Deborah Lutz illuminates the complex and fascinating lives of the Brontës through the things they wore, stitched, wrote on, and inscribed. By unfolding the histories of the meaningful objects in their family home in Haworth, Lutz immerses readers in a nuanced re-creation of the sisters' daily lives while moving us chronologically forward through the major biographical events: the death of their mother and two sisters, the imaginary kingdoms of their childhood writing, their time as governesses, and their determined efforts to make a mark on the literary world.
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."
Founded by Gina Luria Walker, Women's Studies, New School University, New York. Inspired by the 6-volume work by Mary Hays, "Female Biography, or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of All Ages and Countries" (London: R. Phillips, 1803).