To Whom It May Concern

19th Century Feminist Responses to "A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice"


A digital exhibit of works from the Rare Book Collection at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Lovejoy Library.

It is 1741…

Wetenhall Wilkes publishes his “letter” to his teenaged niece. Wilkes’ book and others like it instruct young women about their future and how to prepare for it. Basically Wilkes’ niece looks forward to a life of spiritually focused virginity or marriage, motherhood, and housekeeping.

How did women take Wilkes’ “genteel and moral advice”? In the 19th century, women became more literary and developed themselves as individuals, preparing to contribute to society in new ways.

The authors of these eight works from Lovejoy Library’s Rare Book Collection may not have read Wilkes’ “letter.” In this exhibit we imagine that they did and that these are their responses.

Enter the Exhibition