Rebecca Shuttleworth (University of Leicester)
For the final Romantic Realignments of 2013, we're very happy to have Rebecca Shuttleworth with us to share some of her research on dissenting women writers.
The abolitionist campaigner Elizabeth Heyrick (1769-1831), was born into a dissenting family in Leicester, but asserted her independence later in life by leaving the Methodist Church to join the Society of Friends. Previous accounts of her life have often assumed that her social activism was very much a development of her new Quaker environment. This paper will suggest that the picture is more complicated than that, and will explore the complex interplay between the values of rationality, social morality, and religion in her life and writings. It will draw on family and friends’ writings about Heyrick, as well as her own numerous pamphlets, to explore the ways in which a radical female activist emerged from within a Midlands dissenting community. Heyrick’s voice, as it emerges in her writings, both works within, and against, the social expectations of her surrounding community and culture. In her appeals to rationality, rather than religion, in her justification of her various crusades, she emerges strongly as a voice of Enlightenment values. The paper will explore the dissenting community of Leicester at that period, the various role models available to Elizabeth, and the ways in which she constructed her own voice. It will consider her abolitionist writings, as well as her associated campaigns against animal cruelty, and her call for a total boycott of sugar and all products produced by slave labour. Heyrick’s understanding of social responsibility and moral identity remain remarkably consistent through her life, and must be understood not just in terms of her religion, but the wider Enlightenment commitment to the values of rationality.
All are welcome – please come along and help us round off Michaelmas term in style!