In the 1730s a group of women known as the Shakespeare Ladies’
Club promoted performances of Shakespeare’s plays and supported
the creation of the Shakespeare monument in Westminster Abbey.
The Shakespeare Ladies’ Club (SLC) has been accorded a footnote
in the reception history of Shakespeare, but no one has yet taken
account of their importance for women’s participation in the intellectual
and cultural life of eighteenth-century London. By tracing
the dynamics of this group, we may increase our understanding of
women’s reading habits, their effect on the theatrical repertoire,
and their role in the public life of clubs and philanthropic endeavours.
The convergence of several factors made the SLC possible;
this article contextualises the SLC within the literary and cultural
life of the eighteenth century, and examines the importance of the
SLC in the life and work of one member, Elizabeth Boyd.