The religious tract embodies complex relationships among women, social mores, economic realities, religion, and literary form. In the first place, tracts provided a socially acceptable way for women, particularly for those of an evangelical leaning, to become authors. And some women, such as the High Church Elizabeth Missing Sewell and the Low Church Hannah More, eventually moved from writing tracts to writing novels.
Another connection between gender and tracts appears in the fact that tracts provided middle-class women with something to do outside the home. Organizing tract societies and personally distributing tracts to the poor was a socially acceptable occupation for middle-class women, a fact indicated by the tract-carrying womn with the blue parasol in Ford Madox Brown's Work. As Roe has observed, these activities, socially approved because they allowed women to act in caring ways appropriate to middle-class notions of female nature without encroaching on male power, provided the experience of working in committees that convinced many women they not only were certainly as capable as men of understanding politics, society, and voting but that they in fact deserved the vote. In fact, tract societies, provided experience of complex political organizing which later proved essential to suffragette movement.
Last modified 24 June 2011