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The Collective Biographies of Women

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A number of collective biographies, which each chronicled the lives of three or more women, were published in the United States and Britain between 1830 and 1940. Aimed at young women, these biographies featured famous women including Joan of Arc, Pocahontas, and Queen Elizabeth along with a number of lesser-known figures. In 2004, University of Virginia English scholar Alison Booth published How to Make It as a Woman: Collective Biographies from Victoria to the Present, analyzing how these "prosopographies" communicated correct moral conduct and, at times, challenged traditional views of femininity in ways that complicate our contemporary understanding of Victorian gender roles. Since 2003, Booth has also collaborated with UVA Libraries and the UVA Department of English to digitize these collective biographies. Visitors can search or browse for a specific biography, check out Featured Subjects, where the biographies of women are grouped with contemporary sources, or explore links to archives and interpretive essays. One highlight of the website is the interactive Pop Chart, which allows users to explore popular biography subjects across time. This chart reveals, for example, that while early biographies focus on religious figures, queens, and revolutionary women, later biographies favor explorations of women in art, literature, and science.
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2016-09-23
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