18th-century women's journal discovered at the Utrecht Special Collections

The Recensent voor Vrouwen ('The Reviewer for Women') is a rare 18th-century reader's guide for women. Until recently no copies of this journal were known. Accidentally cataloguer Paul Pestman came upon the journal in the depositories of Utrecht University Library. Now it has been digitised and can be viewed online.

Especially for women

De Recensent voor Vrouwen is one of the five journals that were published in the 18th century for a female audience. The digitised journal offers both researchers and interested readers a splendid insight into the position of women in society. It contains serious reviews of books (for instance of De Geschiedenis der menschheid ('The history of mankind') from 1793 and more light-hearted articles such as a story about a Parisian woman pregnant with her 19th child!

'Fair sex'

 In a preface the editor explains his motives. Every month he wants to dedicate a piece to the 'fair Sex' by publishing reviews which have the female sex as their subject or which are of interest to the ladies. For instance books about etiquette, family life, married life and about remarkable women such as the British Lady Jane Grey. In addition the journal contains articles for entertainment, including a 'female exposé' on loneliness and an 'ode to God after a thunderstorm'.


Historian Els Kloek researched 18th-century women's journals and published an article on the website of Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. In it she says to be happy with the discovery because there is not much knowledge about the contents of this kind of journals. Now we can research in depth and better understand the lives of 18th-century women.

No success

 The 18th-century reader's guide for women was not very successful unfortunately: only two issues were published. The first one succeeds in addressing the female readers specifically as women, in the second one this attempt rather fails: the review of Pasteur's work on mammals for instance is only published because of its instructive character. The special use for women is apparently not clear to the reviewer either.

Digital glimpse of 18th-century thought

 Even though the journal stopped after only two issues, it tells us a great deal about the 18th-century perception of women.Curious about De Recensent voor Vrouwen? View the journal online now.