‘Excluded from a woman’s natural destiny’: Disability and Femininity in Dinah Mulock’s Olive and Charlotte M. Yonge’s The Daisy Chain

  • Clare Walker GoreEmail author
Part of the British Women’s Writing from Brontë to Bloomsbury, 1840-1940 book series (BWWFBB, volume 1)


This chapter examines single female characters in 1850s novels by unmarried Victorian women writers. Discussing disability and femininity in Dinah Mulock (later Craik)’s Olive (1850) and Charlotte M. Yonge’s The Daisy Chain (1856), Walker Gore shows that the novels’ use of disabled heroines enabled both writers to explore from a conservative standpoint what an unmarried woman could or should achieve. Craik and Yonge depict disability as heightening and perfecting femininity by strengthening heroines’ religious faith, patience, forbearance, and compassion, thereby enabling them to become powerfully effective characters within the period’s domestic fiction. Validating femininity’s moral power by celebrating disability’s spiritual and affective power, the novels also, through disabled women’s perceived exclusion from the marriage plot, articulate alternative narrative possibilities for female characters, including as artist and exemplar.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity CollegeCambridgeUK

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