“Affecting the Shade”: Attribution, Authorship, and Anonymity in An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex

Johanna Devereaux, Merton College, University of Oxford
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2008), 17-37

This work seeks to definitively attribute the authorship of an important early feminist pamphlet to Judith Drake. Although An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex has been most consistently ascribed to Mary Astell since shortly after its publication, this article reveals a chain of evidence including political affiliations and social networks that establishes Drake as the overwhelming candidate for authorship. Subsequent to its efforts concerning attribution, this article seeks to answer the Foucauldian question: “What matter who’s speaking?” The answer to this query is that the collaborative relationship between Drake and her husband James, among others, resulted in a heterotextual effort that complicates the simple, sexist boundaries that we attempt to force onto supposedly single-authored texts. Conversely, this article finds much intellectual fodder in the collaborative nature Restoration-era protofeminist writing.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]