Part of the Social History in Perspective book series (SHP)


Over the last 20 years, a myriad of conflicting narratives have been constructed detailing the history of nineteenth-century British women. The feminist revival of the 1970s, combined with the growth of social history and the left-wing desire to recapture ‘history from below’, led to a wave of historical interest in the lives of Victorian women. The influential work of Sheila Rowbotham, for example, sought to bring to light those women who had remained ‘hidden from history’, yet who were of vital significance to both industrial and political protest and early feminism. Such a project was informed by the politics of the ‘new wave’ feminism of the 1970s which sought to consider afresh women’s role within society.1


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  1. 1.
    Sheila Rowbotham, Hidden From History (London: Pluto Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for example, Martha Vicinus (ed.), Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age (London: Methuen, 1972);Google Scholar
  3. and Vicinus (ed.), A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For good overviews of these discussions, see Jane Rendall, ‘Uneven Developments: Women’s History, Feminist History and Gender History in Great Britain’, in Karen Offen, Ruth Roach Pierson and Jane Rendall (eds), Writing Women’s History: International Perspectives (Basingstoke: Macmillan - now Palgrave, 1991), pp. 45–57;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. and June Hannam, ‘Women, History and Protest’, in Diana Richardson and Victorian Robinson (eds), Introducing Women’s Studies: Feminist Theory and Practice (Basingstoke: Macmillan–now Palgrave, 1991), pp. 303–23.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Joan Kelly, Women, History and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984), especially ch. 1.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780–1850 (London: Routledge, 1987).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    J. W. Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988);Google Scholar
  9. Denise Riley, ‘Am I That Name?’ Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in History (Basingstoke: Macmillan - now Palgrave, 1988);Google Scholar
  10. Mary Poovey, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 7.
    For useful debates on the role of poststructuralism in women’s history, see Joan Hoff, ‘Gender as a Postmodern Category of Paralysis’, Women’s History Review 3 (1994), pp. 149–68; S. Kingsley Kent, ‘Mistrials and Diatribulations: A Reply to Joan Hoff’; C. Ramazanoglu, ’Unravelling Postmodern Paralysis: A Response to Joan Hoff’;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Joan Hoff, ‘A Reply to My Critics’, Women’s History Review, 5 (1996), pp. 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 9.
    Judith M. Bennett, ‘Review Essay: History that Stands Still: Women’s Work in the European Past’, Feminist Studies, 14 (1988), pp. 269–83;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bridget Hill, ‘Women’s History: A Study in Change, Continuity or Standing Still?’, Women’s History Review, 2, no. 2 (1993), pp. 5–22;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Judith M. Bennett, ‘Women’s History: A Study in Continuity and Change: A Reply to Bridget Hill’, Women’s History Review 2, no. 2 (1993), pp. 173–90. For debates on the family wage, see also p. 38 below.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 10.
    Carol E. Morgan, ‘Gender Constructions and Gender Relations in Cotton and Chain-Making in England: A Contested and Varied Terrain’, Women’s History Review 6, no. 3 (1997), pp. 376–8. In talking of a ‘new revisionism’, I am also thinking of stimulating (albeit diverse) recent essays such asGoogle Scholar
  17. Joanna Bourke, ‘Housewifery in Working-Class England 1860–1914’, Past and Present, 143 (1994), pp. 167–97;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Henrietta Twycross-Martin, ‘Woman Supportive or Woman Manipulative? The “Mrs Ellis” Woman’, in Clarissa Campbell Orr (ed.), Wollstonecraft’s Daughters: Womanhood in England and France (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), pp. 109–20;Google Scholar
  19. Michelle de Larrabeiti, ‘Conspicuous Before the World: the Political Rhetoric of the Chartist Women’, in Eileen Yeo (ed.), Radical Femininity: Women’s Self-Representation in the Public Sphere (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), pp. 112–13;Google Scholar
  20. Shani D’Cruze, ‘“Care, Diligence and Usfull [sic] Pride”: Gender, Industrialisation and the Domestic Economy, c. 1770 to c. 1840’, Women’s History Review 3, no. 3 (1994), pp. 31–45;Google Scholar
  21. and Margot Finn, ‘Women, Consumption and Coverture in England, c. 1760–1860’, Historical Journal, 3, no. 39 (1996), pp. 703–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 12.
    A. J. Vickery, ‘Golden Ages to Separate Spheres: A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History’, Historical Journal, 36, no. 2 (1993), pp. 383–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 13.
    Ann Oakley, Housewife (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974).Google Scholar

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© Kathryn Gleadle 2001

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