Massachusetts Historical Society


“To make or frame curious Figures in Wax-work”: Nostalgia and the Miniature in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Work


Author: Laura Earls, University of Delaware
Comment: Miriam Rich, Dartmouth College

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Elite white women in the British Atlantic world commemorated transitions in their lives with shellwork grottos, shadow box scenes, dollhouses, and dolls. While these objects usually marked marriages or the births of children, they often did not depict these milestones. This dissertation chapter uses scholarship on folklore and women’s life-writing practices to assess how and why women in Boston, Philadelphia, and London created these material memoirs. Close readings of these objects illuminate the connections between women’s work, women’s bodies, and nostalgia because these things omit the sexual and racial power dynamics that shaped the lived experiences of their creators.

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