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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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Editors’ Note xv


Editors’ Note In preparing the selections for this anthology, we have generally used origi- nal publications with the exception of the following five works, which were excerpted from later nineteenth-century reprints or editions: [Sarah Lewis], Woman’s Mission, H. M. [Harriet Martineau], ‘Literary Lionism’; Currer Bell [Charlotte Brontë], ‘Editor’s Preface to the New Edition of Wuthering Heights’; Mrs Mowatt [Anna Cora Mowatt], ‘Ballet Girls (From the Autobiography of an Actress)’; and ‘Paragraphs: Memorials’. The inserted names in brackets in the case of Frances Anne Butler [Fanny Kemble]’s Journal (1835) in the first section have been taken from Monica Gough’s modern edition (1990). We were faithful to the stylistics of each of the works excerpted (e.g. use of italics, small capitals, spellings, bold, etc.). However, we have made certain typographical changes; specifically, we did not keep small capitals at the beginning of the pieces, italicised the titles of books that appeared in inverted commas, replaced double with single quotation marks and placed the punctuation marks outside them for the sake of consistency across the anthology. Where square brackets appear around the author’s name, it means that the work was published anonymously. Accordingly the symbol ‘[…]’ is used to signify the editorial omissions we have made in relation to the original piece. The page numbers between omissions are provided in square brackets at the end of the reference for the source. Unless indicated otherwise, page numbers in the headnotes refer to the original publication from where the text is excerpted. Since...

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