«Jeg gikk i ingen Skole, havde min Frihed hele Dagen og Nøglen til hans Bogskab» - kvinners lesning på 1700-tallet
Oftest var det mannen som representerte familiens boksamling i møte med offentligheten. Noen ganger trer imidlertid også kvinner frem, både som kjøpere og som selgere på bokauksjoner, eller fordi de skrev om egen lesning. Kvinner som hadde et aktivt forhold til bøker, fantes både innen den bedre stand og bondestanden. De leste meget forskjellig, men uavhengig av sosial plassering er religiøs litteratur, først og fremst oppbyggelige, pietistiske bøker, et fellestrekk i lesningen deres.. Kvinner tilhørende den bedre stand leste dessuten verdslige bøker, både historisk litteratur, tidsskrifter, komedier, sanger, praktiske håndbøker med mer. Vi finner færre spor av datidens populære romaner enn man kunne ha forventet. Tilgang til bøker og de tanker og den kunnskap de formidlet må ha vært spesielt viktig for kvinner i datidens samfunn, siden deres skolegang var meget begrenset.Women readers in 18th century Norway The topic of the article is women readers in the 18th century. We know the names of five of the women who bought books at local auctions, as well as the titles of the books, but why did they choose these particular titles? In what way do the books reflect the interests of the reader? Only 5 out of a total of 154 printed auction catalogues have a woman’s name on the title page. In this article, I examine whether there are reasons for believing that the five women had a closer relation to the books for sale than did their many anonymous sisters whose late husbands’ books were sold at other auctions. Finally, I examine what six women wrote about their own reading, five of them farming women belonging to a revival movement. I show that women with an active interest in books came from very different walks of life, from the upper classes as well as farming society. What they had in common was an interest in religious books, especially works by pietistic authors. While these women limited themselves to this theme, as far as we can tell from examined sources, upper class women also read a wider selection of subjects, although the modern novel was not as popular as one might have expected. Books being important to these women may not be so surprising when it is considered how little schooling girls received at the time. I argue that more research on women’s reading is necessary if the different ideas, thoughts and knowledge women were privy to are to be fully realised. Women may not have played an important role in public, but within the private sphere their influence should not be underestimated.