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Balancing Acts: The Hostess and the New Bureaucratic Order

  • Susan K. Harris

Abstract

Mary Gladstone and Annie Fields have come down to posterity because their contemporaries celebrated them as hostesses, but for neither woman was hostessing her only, or even her favorite, activity. Nevertheless the “business” of hostessing provided both women with skills that facilitated their movement from the relatively domestic environment of entertaining to the far more public world of institution-building. As members of powerful classes, they were well-positioned to take their talents into the public arena; as late Victorian women, they experienced opportunities for public self-presentation that they were not altogether prepared to embrace. Class, gender, and nationality facilitated their activities even as they controlled their ambitions.

Keywords

Late Nineteenth Century Cultural Institution Diary Entry Public Arena Music Education 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lucy Masterman, Ed., Mary Gladstone, Her Diaries and Letters, London: Methuen & Co., 1930, 246.Google Scholar
  2. A large literature exists on the evolution of Anglo-American charity organizations in the late nineteenth century. See especially Katherine Bentley Beauman, Women and the Settlement Movement, London and New York: The Radcliffe Press, 1996;Google Scholar
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  11. 15.
    William Ewart Gladstone’s relationships with the prostitutes he “rescued” during long night walks through London have been a matter of hot dispute ever since the press first got wind of the practice in the nineteenth century. According to the family, he talked the prostitutes into coming home with him and then handed them over to his wife for “rescue” purposes; according to his enemies, of course, he was practicing adultery under the guise of charity—a sexual scenario familiar to citizens in a culture that fetishized purity. Newspapers and cartoonists, of course, found the subject irresistible. See Richard Deacon, The Private Life of Mr. Gladstone, London: Frederick Muller, 1965.Google Scholar
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  13. 25.
    Roy Jenkins, Gladstone, London: Macmillan, 1995, 391.Google Scholar
  14. 33.
    Judith A. Roman, Annie Adams Fields: Spirit of Charles Street, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990, 75–77.Google Scholar
  15. 40.
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  16. 52.
    Paul DiMaggio, “Cultural Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century Boston: the Creation of an Organizational Base for High Culture in America,” Richard Collins et al., Eds., Media, Culture and Society: A Critical Reader, London: SAGE Publications, 1986, 199.Google Scholar
  17. 56.
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  20. 66.
    A culture that was clearly intended to separate groups along class and ethnic lines. For the creation of high culture in nineteenth-century America see DiMaggio, “Cultural Entrepreneurship,” and Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988; for a sociological/theoretical overview see Bourdieu, Distinction.Google Scholar
  21. 81.
    N. G. Annan, “The Intellectual Aristocracy,” Studies in Social History: A Tribute to G. M. Treveyan, London: Longman, Green & Co., 1955, 243–287.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan K. Harris 2002

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  • Susan K. Harris

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