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Kvennabréfin á Hallfreðarstöðum: hagnýting skriftarkunnáttu 1817-1829.

Þegar Páll Pálsson var ellefu ára árið 1817 var hann sendur til fósturs og mennta suður í Odda á Rangárvöllum. Þá hófust markvissar bréfaskriftir milli hans og fjölskyldu hans austur á Hallfreðarstöðum í Hróarstungu. Þessi bréfaskipti stóðu yfir jafnlengi og báðir aðilar lifðu. Hér eru bréf skrifuð af móður Páls, ömmu og tveimur systrum á tímabilinu 1817–1829 skoðuð í ljósi kenninga um alþýðlega læsisiðkun. Með öðrum orðum er sjónum beint að því hvað konurnar á Hallfreðarstöðum „gerðu við læsi“, hvernig þær hagnýttu skriftarkunnáttuna á tímum þegar minnihluti landsmanna, og mun færri konur en karlar, kunni að skrifa. Því er haldið fram að sendibréf fyrri tíma verði ávallt að skoða í ljósi þess menningar- og félagslega samhengis sem þau spretta úr.
LITERACY PRACTICES 1817–1829: The Case of the Women at Hallfreðarstaðir, Iceland In 1817, 11-year-old Páll Pálsson was sent away from home, to be brought up and educated in South Iceland at the church farm Oddi in Rangárvellir. There, he began a regular, lifelong correspondence with his family in east Iceland, who lived on the farm of Hallfreðarstaðir in Hróarstunga. In the light of Barton and Hamilton’s theories on vernacular literacy practices (1998), this article examines letters written from 1817 to 1829 by his mother, grandmother and two sisters. The focus is on what these women did with literacy and how they utilised their ability to write at a time when only a minority of Icelanders — including far fewer women than men — knew how to write. The letters of these women indicate a strong dependency on various external circumstances, such as mail services (officially only three trips a year) or other opportune trips, as well as close internal links, with the letters being carefully planned or even edited to prevent everyone telling the same news. The women clearly utilised the correspondence not only to maintain personal ties but also, and just as importantly, to cultivate a network of relationships and power. Their letters exemplify how writing can be learned informally within a family rather than in school or through mandates from the authorities, thus demonstrating how literacy practices can be passed on between generations. The existence of a gender gap in letter-writing is evident: during this period, women had less time and usually received less instruction than men, so that women sometimes requested men to write for them those letters which were intended for high-ranking men. The article argues that letters must always be studied in the social and cultural context of their origins, considering both external conditions and internal relationships. Only then is it possible to understand the nature and purposes of the correspondence.