WINNER OF THE 2009 NWSA SARA A. WHALEY BOOK AWARD!! This enlightening book investigates literature’s engagement with the social and gendered conflicts of early modern England by examining the narratives that seventeenth-century dramatists and women writers created to describe the lives of working women. Analyzing texts by such authors as William Shakespeare, Hannah Woolley, Thomas Heywood, Anne Clifford, and others, Dowd considers several types of work—including service, wetnursing, and housework—that changed significantly during the seventeenth century, generating new literary formulations of women’s economic, political, and religious authority. These narratives served a crucial social function, namely to construe and define the limits of female subjectivity within a shifting and contested labor economy. This original study attests not only to the social significance of women’s work during this period, but also more broadly to the dynamic force of fictional narrative in early modern England.