Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Vol 2, No 2 (2011)

Jolly Jades, Lewd Ladies and Moral Muses: Women and Clubs in Early Eighteenth-Century Britain

Robert Collis
Issued Date: 2 May 2012


This article argues that the range of female participation in the associational culture of fraternalism in early eighteenth-century Britain—in terms of class background, social setting and moral philosophy—was surprisingly rich and varied. In effect, such a claim complements the body of work written in the past two decades, by historians such as Steve Pincus, Brian Cowan, Markham Ellis and Helen Berry, vis-à-vis the place of women in the public sphere of the coffeehouse in post-Restoration and Augustan England. This hypothesis will be developed by outlining the active involvement of women in three distinct spheres of fraternal culture in early eighteenth-century Britain. First, I will explore the manner in which women participated in or mimicked the culture of alehouse clubbing in early eighteenth-century London. Second, I will emphasize the prominent role of aristocratic ladies in mixed bacchanalian and masquerade societies, including the Order of the Horn, The Hell-Fire Club and the Gallant Schemers, that met in several notable town houses or country retreats of the English and Scottish gentry. Lastly, a study will be made of the all-female Fair Intellectual Club, which was established in May 1717 in Edinburgh.

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DOI: 10.1558/jrff.v2i2.202


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