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‘Heaven defend me from political or highly-educated women!’: Packaging the New Woman for Mass Consumption

  • Chris Willis
Chapter

Abstract

The New Woman of commercialized popular literature was a far cry from her sensitive, suffering sisters in the polemic fiction of the best-known New Woman novelists. Romances, comic novels and detective fiction portrayed attractive, independent, highly intelligent young women entering a range of professions before (almost invariably) falling in love. Some of the most striking examples of this type of fiction were written by men — perhaps attempting to defuse the threat of the New Woman by emphasizing her youth, sexual attractiveness, and the supposed folly of her desire for independence. Male fears of the New Woman’s bid for sexual and social equality are expressed by the hero of Beatrice Harraden’s fin-de-siècle bestseller Ships that Pass in the Night, who cries, ‘Heaven defend me from political or highly educated women!’1 In commercial New Woman fiction, a heroine who is ‘political or highly educated’ is almost sure to come to a bad end unless she abandons her socio-political and intellectual activities in favour of a conventional wifely role.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Beatrice Harraden, Ships that Pass in the Night (henceforward SPN) (1893; repr. London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1900 ), 158.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hugh E. M. Stutfield, ‘Tommyrotics’ in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 157, 1895, 837.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Sutherland: Bestsellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970s ( London: Routledge amp; Kegan Paul, 1981 ), 246.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Grant Allen, The Woman Who Did (1895; repr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995 ), 28–29.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Grant Allen (writing as Olive Pratt Rayner), The Type-writer Girl ( London: C. Arthur Pearson, 1897 ), 17.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    L. T. Meade, The Cleverest Woman in England (henceforward CWE) ( 1898; London: Ballantyne, Hanson, undated ) 3.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    McDonnell Bodkin, Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective, (henceforward DM) (London: Chatto amp; Windus, 1900 ), 1.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Bodkin, The Capture of Paul Beck, ( London: Fisher Unwin, 1909 ) 77.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Grant Allen: Miss Cayley’s Adventures (henceforward MCA) Strand Magazine, vols 15–17, 1898–9; vol. 16, 66.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Moral Reform Union, Annual Report 1890, 13, (henceforward MRU) quoted Sheila Jeffreys: The Spinster and Her Enemies (Pandora, 1985), 62.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Grant Allen: Hilda Wade (henceforward HW) Strand Magazine, vols 17–19, 1899–1900; vol. 17, 328.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Hugh E. M. Stutfield: ‘Tommyrotics’, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 157, 1895, 837.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Hugh E. M. Stutfield: ‘Tommyrotics’, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 157, 1895, 837.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Angelique Richardson and Chris Willis 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Willis

There are no affiliations available

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