This anthology brings together extracts from a wide variety of seventeenth-century sources to illustrate the ways in which the cultural notion of `women' was then constructed. historical circumstances of women's lives in the seventeenth century and the cultural notions of `woman' which prevailed then. What did women and men think women should be? Over 200 extracts from books, pamphlets, diaries and letters are arranged under three main headings: female nature, character and behaviour; female roles and affairs; and `feminisms.' Each chapter is introduced by N.H. Keeble who contextualises the extracts and draws out the main issues revised.