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What are the avenues offered to women in Philadelphia in 1793? Before the fever, Matilda's family assumes that she will find a nice young man like Edward Ogilvie and marry him. This, after all, is what decent young girls are expected to do. Matilda, though, has other plans – plans that don't include being a housewife. An independent girl, Matilda wishes to run the family business – just like her mother has been – and take over and expand the coffeehouse into something quite grand.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. What are Matilda's options for a career? How about Eliza's? Nell's?
  2. What is Matilda's opinion of marriage? Why?
  3. In what way is Matilda a different kind of girl than the Ogilvie daughters?
  4. Why does Matilda refer to her mother as a "captain"?
  5. How does Matilda's relationship with her grandfather shape the woman she becomes?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Fever, 1793 suggests that you can challenge expectations for your gender, and – with the help of other likeminded people – succeed.

While opportunities for women in the eighteenth century were limited, Matilda manages to carve out a path for herself and for others, like Eliza.

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