Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives

Imaging Women of Consequence in the Dutch Golden Age


Co-Honorable Mention for the 2021 Book Award by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender (SSEMWG)

In Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives, Martha Moffitt Peacock provides a novel interpretive approach to the artistic practice of Imaging Women of Consequence in the Dutch Golden Age. From the beginnings of the new Republic, visual celebrations of famous heroines who crossed gender boundaries by fighting in the Revolt against Spain or by distinguishing themselves in arts and letters became an essential and significant cultural tradition that reverberated throughout the long seventeenth century. This collective memory of consequential heroines who equaled, or outshone, men is frequently reflected in empowering representations of other female archetypes: authoritative harpies and noble housewives. Such enabling imagery helped in the structuring of gender norms that positively advanced a powerful female identity in Dutch society.

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Martha Moffitt Peacock is Professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies at Brigham Young University. She has recently published “The Maid of Holland and Her Heroic Heiresses” in Women and Gender in the Early Modern Low Countries, 1500-1750 (Brill, 2019).
Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives has been awarded Co-Honorable Mention for the 2021 Book Award by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender (SSEMWG). The awards committee stated that the book “offers a convincing counter analysis to scholarship emphasizing the display of patriarchy in Dutch art produced in the seventeenth century. The book employs the female archetypes of heroines, harpies, and housewives to emphasize the overlapping discourses that privileged women’s place and society and revealed anxieties about women’s influence. Through exploration of images and texts, this study highlights the unique combination of factors that allowed women in the Netherlands to achieve and perpetuate greater social and cultural independence.”

“a timely study that reflects revived scholarly interest in female patrons, artists, and the economic and social contributions of women in the seventeenth-century Netherlands [...]. Peacock reveals that combative women became celebrated agents of female legacy by challenging female archetypes. Her research persuasively elides this sentiment with the reception of female intellectuals and painters, as well as the literary and lived experiences of a wide range of powerful women in the Dutch Republic. Each chapter of this book can be read individually, but all three work well collectively.”
Laura E. Thiel-Convery, Toronto. In: HNA Reviews, August 2021.

List of Illustrations

1 Introduction
 1.1 Purpose and Scope
 1.2 Indicting Patriarchy
 1.3 Female Agency and Autonomy
 1.4 Did Women Have Power in the Dutch Republic?
 1.5 Reinterpreting Images of Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives

2 Heroines
 2.1 The Gendered Culture and History of the Dutch Revolt
 2.2 Kenau Simonsdr. Hasselaer (1526–1588) and the Women of Haarlem
 2.3 Trijn van Leemput (c. 1530–1607) and the Women of Utrecht
 2.4 Trijn Rembrands (c. 1557–1638) and the Women of Alkmaar
 2.5 Magdalena Moons (1541–1613) and the Women of Leiden
 2.6 More Women Warriors
 2.7 The Heroine Legacy
 2.8 Structuring the Cultural Heroine
 2.9 Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678): Her Network and Influence
 2.10 Fashioning Other Women Artists

3 Harpies
 3.1 The Humorous Battle of the Sexes
 3.2 Violent and Domineering Women
 3.3 Heroines Inspire Harpies
 3.4 Beating the Drunk
 3.5 Husbands Caught with Courtesans
 3.6 The Battle for the Trousers
 3.7 Female Tyranny
 3.8 Female Domination and Feared Despotism
 3.9 Harpies in Decline

4 Housewives
 4.1 Female Power and Agency
 4.2 Patriarchy and Women’s Work
 4.3 Geertruydt Roghman (1625–c. 1651): Her Innovations and Influence
 4.4 The Allure of the Domestic
 4.5 Women and Civic Institutions
 4.6 Women and the Economy
 4.7 Consumer Housewives
 4.8 Conclusion
All levels of readers interested in Dutch art and culture of the Golden Age. All levels of readers interested in the study of early modern women. Keywords: art, history, culture, seventeenth century, 1550-1750, early modern women, gender, Kenau Simonsdr. Hasselaer, Anna Maria van Schurman, domestic sphere, protofeminism, genre painting, portraiture, women artists.
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