"I'm quite regardless what the world can say!": Marriage, Media, Agency and the New Female Coterie in the Late Eighteenth Century
The New Female Coterie was a group of disgraced upper-class women in the late eighteenth century traditionally dismissed as ‘scandalous’, ‘fallen’ or victims. This thesis re-evaluates these women, exploring the ways in which they utilised their agency to navigate divorce and separation proceedings which were designed for the benefit of men. It also investigates the constraints, such as family or wealth, that restricted their agency. The thesis further considers the ways in which the women were empowered by combining as a collective. This thesis utilises under-examined sources such as satirical cartoons, pamphlets, and The Rambler’s Magazine to show that media itself could constrain women either by side-lining women’s agency or by portraying it as a negative and dangerous thing. Media representations of the New Female Coterie provide evidence of the sex panics which, historians argue, reached their apex in the 1790s. This thesis posits instead that anxieties regarding women’s sexual behaviour originated earlier than is often suggested. By examining the under-explored women of the New Female Coterie, this thesis contributes to scholarship on female agency in the Georgian period.