Document Type


Peer Reviewed



While much important work has been done on the early modern fascination with the political nature of bees and bee societies, this essay instead takes a closer look at the conflation of honeybees, women, and domestic spaces within the multi-generic textual ecology of early modern beekeeping. In the early modern period women were the primary beekeepers. As key participants in this art of sustained and intimate collaboration across species and environment, these women managed their own hives using the multifaceted skills of the early modern housewife, including textile arts, brewing, distilling, medicine, horticulture, and husbandry. This essay highlights the tension between knowledgeable women apiarists and male textual authorities in early modern apiary treatises and husbandry manuals and focuses on the persistent descriptive slippage between both bees and women and the hive and home in early modern sources. In early modern texts women’s bodies, domestic spaces, and hives are all over-determined entities invested in containment, preservation, and productivity. This essay emphasizes the ways in which early modern women and the occupants of the hives they cared for resisted and worked within the allegorical, anthropocentric, and patriarchal frameworks provided for them in the textual narratives of the early modern period.


beekeeping, bees, hives, women, gender, housewife, preservation, ecology, domestic, early modern

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