Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to publishing exemplary undergraduate research in the humanities and social sciences.


Lady Anne Clifford: From Idealized Gender Warrior to Exceptional Literary Bureaucrat

As the only child of her father, Lady Anne Clifford claimed she was entitled to his estates and titles upon his death as his sole appropriate heir. Because of conditions such as coverture, primogeniture, feme covert, etc. during early modern England, there has been, and still is, the general assumption that women were not only subordinate to men, but that they held only the most basic rights in regards to property. Due to this characterization, historians have perpetually viewed Clifford as a new-age feminist who defied the circumstances of her time and fought for rights that were uncommon for women to pursue.


This thesis proves that Clifford was not remarkable for what she has become so famously known for. Her struggle to gain her inheritance was not as unusual or noteworthy as it was initially thought; it was actually quite a common practice amongst women of her standing.


While Anne may not have been extraordinary in regards to her legal battles, it must still be noted that Anne has stood the test of time and has remained a prominent historical figure over the past centuries. This thesis demonstrates that Anne was not in fact a gender warrior within the larger legal scene but rather an emerging bureaucrat and literary contributor. In the end, historians are able to understand Anne and other women of her stature because she chose to document her life, legal or not, and to thus make sure that she could and would be later studied.