In her account of unmarried women's experiences in colonial Philadelphia, Wulf argues that educated young women, particularly Quakers, engaged in resistance to patriarchal marriage by exchanging poetry critical of marriage, copying verse into their commonplace books. Wulf suggests that this critique circulated beyond the daughters of the Quaker elite and middle class, whose commonplace books she mines, proposing that Quaker schools brought it to many poor female students of diverse backgrounds.
Here Wulf probably overstates Quaker schools' impact. At least three years' study would be necessary to achieve the literacy competence necessary to grapple with the material she analyzes. In 1765, the year Wulf uses to demonstrate the diversity of Philadelphia's Quaker schools, 128 students enrolled in these schools. Refining Wulf's numbers by the information she provides on religious affiliation, gender, and length of study, it appears that only about 17 poor non-Quaker girls were educated in Philadelphia's Quaker schools for three years or longer. While Wulf is correct that a critique of patriarchal marriage circulated broadly, Quaker schools probably cannot be credited with instilling these ideas in the lower classes. Popular literary satires on marriage had already landed on fertile ground in a multiethnic population that embodied a wide range of marital beliefs and practices. These ethnic - and class - based traditions themselves challenged the legitimacy of patriarchal marriage.
Which of the following, if true, would most seriously undermine the author's basis for saying that Wulf overstates Quaker schools' impact ?
The information that Wulf herself provided on religious affiliation and gender of students is in fact accurate.
Most poor, non-Quaker students enrolled in Quaker schools had completed one or two years' formal or informal schooling before enrolling.
Not all of the young women whose commonplace books contained copies of poetry critical of marriage were Quakers.
The poetry featured in young women's commonplace books frequently included allusions that were unlikely to be accessible to someone with only three years' study in school.
In 1765 an unusually large proportion of the Quaker schools' student body consisted of poor girls from non-Quaker backgrounds.