The Ladies’ Diary (1744)

The Ladies’ Diary for the Year of Our Lord. London: Company of Stationers, 1744.

History of Item’s Publication 

The Ladies Diary was published once a year from 1704- 1841 in England. Throughout its 137 year, it’s gone through multiple title changes although the content within remained relatively similiar; constantly catering towards the current needs and events in society, especially for women. The title changes were very minor, it only changed in the emphasis word, such as “The Ladies Diary” or “LADIES DIARY” (Teri 3).  With the changes in titles, the editor changed multiple times as well. Although this piece of writing is made for women, there was only 1 women editor out of the 7, her name is Caelia Beighton. She was the editor from 1743-1745 and for this particular Ladies Diary: For the Year of our Lord, 1744. Being Bissextile or leap year Containing many Delightful and Entertaining Particulars. This shows that men had fully control over the material published and featured in the Ladies Diary (Teri 3), which is also a reflection of soceity’s view on gender roles. The first editor of the Ladies Diary was John Tipper (Teri 3). He initially included the calendar, recipes, medical advice and puzzles. However, with new renditions and editors, math began to show up more frequently, as well as increasing in difficulty (Adburgham). The Ladies Diary was published by the Stationers’ Company, and was only 4 pages at first. 

Sociocultural Context and Publication Intentions 

As a talented writer, Tipper saw publishing as a possible financial supplement to his career in education. However the important intention in establishing The Diary was his recognition of a need for an almanac that catered for Women. Tipper’s attitude toward women was often remarkably progressive, and in fact he claimed The Diary to be “The First ever published of the kind”

Before the Ladies Diary almanacs often prescribed conventional roles for women as domestic rather than public entities. The character of good wife depicted in almanacs: Good housewives should in December” betake themselves to the wheel and needle, provide clothing for their families”. Tipper’s almanac that explicitly appealed to a female audience was a significant initiative, highlighting the presence of the economic and intellectual agency for women.

Content within The Ladies’ Diary

The content of each volume of The Ladies’ Diary followed a similar format. The first 15 pages were devoted to information typical of all almanacs: introductory statements, and a calendar page for each month. The next dozen pages contained mathematical ‘enigmas’ and paradoxes. A modern-day equivalent to these would be mathematical word problems involving social settings. The final section of the almanac contained 16 pages on mathematical questions and answers. The problems here included the most up-to-date mathematical innovations making them accessible for larger populations. According to Costa, The Ladies’ Diary “embodies the complex interdependence between science and society” at the time (53).

Early issues of The Ladies’ Diary contained content such as housekeeping tips and recipes. However, the Diary’s founding editor, John Tipper, “eagerly altered its contents in response to the preferences of its readership,” which led to the almanac incorporating more mathematical questions (Costa 55). The content of the almanac was geared towards women of higher classes, who would have the advanced education needed to solve the complex mathematical problems. Despite this, the writings in The Ladies’ Diary maintained a lighthearted voice which avoided being patronizing or exclusionary (Costa 55). Rather, the tone was very pleasant and geared towards pleasing, rather than challenging, the reader (Costa 56). This emphasized feminized notions of extreme civility and pleasantry, despite its progressive content.

Materiality and Preservation 

Almanacs were generally yearly publications not intended specifically for long use. They were also widely circulated calling for many copies to be made each year. If is for this reason that the woman’s almanac is made as it is. It is bound with leather and has prints made with movable type on each page (Beilly). The cover nor the pages are particularly expensive material. They are somewhat decent as they did have to last significant use for at least one year, but as it is observable from the copy, they have worn quite a bit. This speaks to how the object’s purpose and use. Almanacs were to be used frequently by the owner and were often lent out and circulated within communities (Aspen). This assured for the heavy usage of the material. Therefore, the material was made to stand up to this use but due to the yearly expiry and high production capacity, the material was somewhat economically produced.

With the invention of movable type, almanacs of specific types became more widely circulated than ever before. This saw the increased inclusion of political messages and propaganda (Parker). In considering the Woman’s Almanac and when it was made, there was an opportunity to form community and support around content specifically for women and women’s issues. In 1744, women faced blatant inequality.By examining women’s almanacs of the future, in more than 100 years, it is evident this object’s place in the progression of women’s rights (Baker). The women’s almanac 100 years later explicitly discussed women’s attainment of equality and progression (Bomarito). Although the women’s almanac of 1744 isn’t explicitly progressive, it clearly stands as a stepping stone and forged the way for women’s content. In terms of women’s rights, the object does not only serve as a means of documenting dates or pieces of information for that specific year, it truly stands as a testament to the progression of women’s rights. Thus, it would be worth keeping beyond just the year intended.

It is also important to consider the availability of objects such a these at the time. Although an almanac was intended to be renewed each year, books were relatively luxurious items. Considering that this almanac was intended for women, perhaps it was not possible for most women to obtain the newest version each year. Women were typically not the primary money earners of the household and therefore usually had less say in what was purchased. It is possible that women would not buy a new copy each year or even more than once. Preserving a copy then may be accountable to the fact that for some women, they would not be purchasing an updated copy.

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UBC Library Catalogue Listing: http://resolve.library.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/catsearch?bid=3474798

by Marjan Mahmoodi, Alethea Kramer,  Angela Leung, and Hailey Mah

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