Parroting and the Periodical: Women’s Speech, Haywood’s Parrot, and Its Antecedents

Manushag N. Powell, Purdue University
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2008), 63-91

This article offers a cultural history-based interrogation of the relationship between gendered speech and the eighteenth-century periodical. The periodical, a genre often considered feminizing both because of its use of domestic and gossipy subjects, and its need to cater to the (mixed-sex) audience, nonetheless often employed the idea of parroting speech to criticize women in particular as unthinking babblers and repeaters of gossip. However, Eliza Haywood’s 1746 periodical makes a brazen attempt to reclaim the parrot, suggesting that “parroting” speech is really the heart of English periodical writing whether political or intimate. Haywood uses this convention to open space for herself as a professional woman writer in a genre otherwise much dominated by men and misogyny.

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]