2009, 408 pages, 7 x 10, 2 charts/graphs, 106 halftones
Goodman follows the lives of elite women from childhood through their education in traditional convents and modern private schools and into the shops and interior spaces in which epistolary furnishings and furniture were made for, sold to, and used by women who took pen in hand. Stationers set up fashionable shops, merchants developed lines of small writing desks, and the furnishings and floor plans of homes changed to accommodate women’s needs. It was as writers and consumers that women entered not only shops but also the modern world that was taking shape in Paris and other cities.
Although many women, from major novelists, painters, and educators to schoolgirls and their mothers as well as Parisian tourists and other shoppers, come to life in this book, Goodman focuses on four bodies of epistolary work by little-known women: the letters of Genevieve de Malboissière, Manon Phlipon, Catherine de Saint-Pierre, and Sophie Silvestre. These letters allow Goodman to explore how particular girls of different social positions came to womanhood through letter writing. She shows how letter writing expanded women’s horizons even as it deepened their ability to reflect on themselves.
The analysis of more than one hundred illustrations-from paintings by major Dutch and French artists to inkstands and writing desks, stationers’ trade cards, and manuscript letters on decorated paper-is integral to Goodman’s argument.