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What is a Woman to Do?

A Reader on Women, Work and Art, c. 1830-1890


Edited By Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi and Patricia Zakreski

This anthology contributes to a scholarly understanding of the aesthetics and economics of female artistic labour in the Victorian period. It maps out the evolution of the Woman Question in a number of areas, including the status and suitability of artistic professions for women, their engagement with new forms of work and their changing relationship to the public sphere. The wealth of material gathered here – from autobiographies, conduct manuals, diaries, periodical articles, prefaces and travelogues – traces the extensive debate on women’s art, feminism and economics from the 1830s to the 1890s.
Combining for the first time nineteenth-century criticism on literature and the visual arts, performance and craftsmanship, the selected material reveals the different ideological positions surrounding the transition of women from idleness to serious occupation. The distinctive primary sources explore the impact of artistic labour upon perceptions of feminine sensibility and aesthetics, the conflicting views of women towards the pragmatics of their own creative labour as they encompassed vocations, trades and professions, and the complex relationship between paid labour and female fame and notoriety.


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Acknowledgements xiii Editors’ Note xv Introduction: Art and Economics for the Middle-Class Woman 1 Section One Negotiating the Domestic Ideal 15 Introduction 17 [Sarah Lewis], Woman’s Mission (1839) 21 Marion Reid, A Plea for Women (1843) 27 ‘Advice to the Ladies’, Eliza Cook’s Journal (1850) 35 Barbara Leigh Smith [Bodichon], Women and Work (1857) 39 [Dinah Mulock Craik], A Woman’s Thoughts about Women (1858) 47 [Harriet Martineau], ‘Female Industry’, Edinburgh Review (1859) 57 Florence Nightingale, ‘Cassandra’ (1860) 63 A. R. L., ‘Facts Versus Ideas’, English Woman’s Journal (1861) 69 [Dora Greenwell], ‘Our Single Women’, North British Review (1862) 75 viii Charlotte Mary Yonge, ‘Money-Making’, Womankind (1877) 83 Emily Pfeif fer, Women and Work. An Essay, etc. (1888) 89 Section Two The Feminine Aesthetic 97 Introduction 99 Frances Anne Butler [Fanny Kemble], Journal (1835) 103 M. A. [Mary Ann] Stodart, Female Writers: Thoughts on Their Proper Sphere, and Their Powers of Usefulness (1842) 109 R. H. [Richard Hengist] Horne, A New Spirit of the Age (1844) 113 [Anne Richelieu Lamb Dryden], Can Woman Regenerate Society? (1844) 119 Currer Bell [Charlotte Brontë], ‘Editor’s Preface to the New Edition of Wuthering Heights’ (1850) 127 Anna Mary Howitt, An Art Student in Munich (1853) 133 [George Eliot], ‘Woman in France: Madame de Sablé’, Westminster Review (1854) 139 Elizabeth Strutt, The Feminine Soul: Its Nature and Attributes. With Thoughts upon Marriage, and Friendly Hints upon Feminine Duties (1857) 147 R. H. [Richard Holt] Hutton, ‘Novels by the Authoress of John Halifax’, North British Review...

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