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Rebellious Writing

Contesting Marginalisation in Edwardian Britain


Edited By Lauren Alex O’Hagan

The Edwardian era is often romanticised as a tranquil period of garden parties and golden afternoons in which everyone knew their place and nobody questioned the order of things. The reality, however, was quite different. The years between 1901 and 1914 were a highly turbulent period of intense social conflict marked by a heightened awareness of class consciousness, inequality and poverty. The increasing mobilisation of the lower classes and women was often countered with violent means, while anybody considered to be the «other» – immigrants, lunatics, the poor, homosexuals – became the target of widespread discrimination. For many of these groups, the only way to fight back was through writing, which they used to voice resistance and contest traditional power structures.

This volume aims to draw attention to the importance of «ordinary writing» – that is, «writing that is typically unseen or ignored and is primarily defined by its status as discardable» – as a form of rebellion for marginalised Edwardians. Using a multidisciplinary perspective to explore a range of material artefacts, from postcards and diary entries to pamphlets and book inscriptions, it aims to unearth voices that have been silent throughout history, transmitting new narratives on such important issues as suffragism, Irish nationalism, the working-class movement and pauper insanity.

Contents: Lauren Alex O’Hagan: Introduction: Ordinary Writing and Rebellion – Ordinary Writing as a Search for Institutional Agency – Cara Dobbing: Writing and Rebellion Among Pauper Patients in the Garlands Lunatic Asylum – Steven King/Carol Beardmore: Contesting the Workhouse: Life Writing, Children and the Later New Poor Law – Maureen Daly Goggin: ‹Bold Bad Ones› in Stitches: WSPU Suffragettes’ Embroidery Sewn in and about Holloway Prison, 1910–1912 – Ordinary Writing as a Challenge to the Social Order – Sarah MacDonald: ‹No Vote, No Census. As women are not persons in the eyes of the law, why count cyphers in the census?›: Exploring Rebellion in the 1911 Census – Sarah Wise: The Stolen Chapter: James Timewell’s Challenge to the Metropolitan Police – Lauren Alex O’Hagan: Rethinking the Book Inscription as a Site of Class Struggle – Ordinary Writing as a Tool of Sociopolitical Discontent – Fanny Louvier: Mastering Their Own Voice: Female Domestic Servants in Edwardian Britain – Daniel Renshaw: A Letter to the Editor, a Challenge to the Status Quo? Radical and Transgressive – Correspondence in the Anglo-Jewish Press, 1901–1914 – Ann Wilson: Picture Postcard Politics: The Expression of Dissent via Picture Postcards in Edwardian Ireland – Ordinary Writing as a Form of Creative Disobedience – Danell Jones: How the Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary: A. B. C. Merriman-Labor’s African Vision – Hadeel J. Azhar: ‹A fire to fill my heart – whose name I dare not speak›: Surpassing Conventional Heterosexuality in Dollie Radford’s Writing – Ken Lee and Jodie Matthews: Romani Rebel Writing: George ‹Lazzy› Smith’s Entrepreneurial Auto-Exoticism – Julia Gillen: Afterword.