The three volumes of Little Gidding Story Books—the first published in 1899, the last in 1970—are based on shorthand transcripts of the informal seminars held on feast days during the early 1630s by members of a quasi-monastic extended family, most of them young women. The discussions center on history (i.e., “story”) and theology, but also engage political topics: class, equality, governance, gender, the authority of reason, and conscience vis-à-vis that of tradition, custom, and culture. The essay focuses on these latter issues, that is to say, on the political opinions held by a mostly female group of pious Laudian gentry. Their views, defended with considerable argumentative verve, turn out to defy expectation on every front. The Story Books represent a major (and largely unknown) body of early modern women's writing, one that challenges the received pictures of feminists, republicans, and Laudians.

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