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This work focuses on the issue of women’s education in a series of novels written by women in the second half of the eighteenth century. On the one hand, the surface plots are conservative, thus reaffirming the social order; on the other hand, numerous subversive narrative techniques undermine the surface stories, drawing attention to the consequences of the arbitrary limitations society imposed on middle-class women as well as to the sense of entrapment and the resulting anxieties they experienced. In showing the increasing female readership ways to negotiate between the behavioural codes of a patriarchal society and their own need for personal freedom, these novels can be read as early feminist critiques of society.